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Friday Fulham Stuff (14/05/10)...

Started by WhiteJC, May 14, 2010, 07:31:52 AM

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Once in a lifetime

There was no better representation of Wednesday's rollercoaster Europa League final than Hamburg's Reeperbahn - the street where both sets of fans congregated before and after the match.

Prior to the game, an overcast and cloudy day could not dampen the spirits of both sets of supporters, who shared beers and stories of mammoth journeys and volcanic ash disruption. The Reeperbahn was a place of unbridled hope, where Atletico fans dreamed of a first European success in more than four decades and Fulham fans dared to consider a first-ever major continental triumph.

"I've travelled 18 hours by coach to get here," John, a Cottagers fan from Northampton, told me before the game. "I was never going to miss it. It's been 35 years since our last major final (a 2-0 defeat to West Ham in the 1975 FA Cup final) and in another 35 years I will be 80 if I'm still here - we're talking real once in a lifetime stuff."

His was a common story and the phrase "once in a lifetime" was one of the most repeated by Cottagers fans.

The final itself was a highly dramatic affair, with the supporters contributing hugely. The HSH Nordbank Arena was a cacophony of noise from start to finish and the fans deserve a great deal of credit for creating an occasion of theatre that has become increasingly rare in an era where the mass sale of corporate tickets has often served to stifle the atmosphere of major finals; the opportunity to have a stadium full to the brim with the clubs' true followers is usually sacrificed in favour of schmoozing executives looking for the next big deal.

Fulham battled hard and their combination of grit, determination and never-say-die spirit, interspersed with moments of expansive football, was a continuation of how they had played throughout their European campaign. When Simon Davies equalised Diego Forlan's opener, Fulham truly believed that Roy Hodgson's charges were set to write an incredible new chapter. The chant of "stand up if you still believe" regularly reverberated around the stadium up until the final whistle in extra-time.

But it was not to be. Diego Forlan's 116th minute extra-time winner increased the volume inside the stadium to a new high as rapturous Rojiblancos fans leapt from the edge of the seats to cloud nine, and began to plan for a long night of partying.

After the game, Alvaro, an overjoyed Atletico fan from Burgos said: "It's an incredible feeling. It was the first time I have seen a final - the last time we played in a European final was 36 years ago (when Atletico lost in the European Cup final to Bayern Munich) and I was too young.

"It was amazing to be here to see us win. Forlan's goal was like a heart attack but it was the perfect ending for us. He is the kind of player who scores a goal when no one else can score it - he can score from nothing. Atletico is the third team in Spain and I hope that we will go on and challenge for the top positions in the coming years."

Much to the dismay of the patiently waiting Atletico fans, Forlan walked straight onto the team bus after the game, but after seeing the throngs of people waiting for him, and with what appeared to be a little coaxing from the driver, the match-winner greeted his adoring public. He posed for photos and signed autographs for five minutes, surely aware that he had etched his name into the club's folklore.

Having waved Diego off, your correspondent shared a taxi back to the Reeperbahn with a trio of Fulham fans, to see that the street that had been a hub of dreamers just hours before was now a place of understandably contrasting emotions. For Cottagers supporters, who 63 games ago in July of last year would never have dreamed of making the final, the result was a bitter pill to swallow; though they were disconsolate, that was tinged with obvious pride.

"I love Fulham and to get to a game like this is beyond my wildest expectations, but once you're there you dream and you think that tonight's your night," said an emotional Richard, one of my fellow occupants of the taxi. "Once we were in extra-time it felt like our game and when Atletico scored I felt like I had slipped out of my own body - I just don't think we deserved that.

"Forlan is a great goalscorer and a natural finisher but for me that game didn't scream 2-1 - it said 1-1, penalties and it was begging for us to step up and win the tournament."

On Thursday morning, the Reeperbahn was a sprawling mass of broken beer bottles and broken dreams, as Fulham fans tried to come to terms with the painful defeat and, in many cases, a painful hangover. Aside from the inevitable, occasional, alcohol-induced exchanges of words, both sets of supporters had mingled, consumed moderate amounts of beer and danced together until the early hours - the final as a spectacle and occasion for the fans was a resounding success.

But what of the tournament itself? That the inaugural Europa League's winning team to have lifted the trophy having won just three games, while the losing finalists were victorious in 11 matches en route to the final seems more than a little unjust.

But what can make football so wonderful are dreams. You could probably count on one hand the number of Fulham fans who believed last July that they would be beating European giants Juventus and Bundesliga champions Wolfsburg on their way to a European final.

Similarly, when Atletico were fighting at the bottom of La Liga and enduring a torrid Champions League campaign few would have believed that their ailing team would finish the season by ending a lengthy wait for a major European trophy.

Fulham boss Hodgson is one of the most widely travelled managers in football, and his continental experience was demonstrated to great effect both throughout this season's campaign and at the post-match press conference, when he answered a German journalist in fluent Deutsch. Hodgson was understandably happy to give the tournament a ringing endorsement, praising UEFA's revamp and insisting that the Europa League can be as good a spectacle as the competition that has overshadowed it for so long.

"It's been a great competition, obviously we have only good things to say about it," Hodgson said. "We've played some fantastic teams; there have been some magnificent occasions both at Craven Cottage and other interesting places against absolutely top-class teams. Here we find ourselves in this magnificent stadium once again, with 49,000 people and an excellent game of football against yet another one of Europe's top teams.

So, proof, if it were needed, that any competition that gives football fans the opportunity to dream of success, of that grand day out at a neutral venue, is a valuable one - whether it be the World Cup, Champions League or Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Just ask those who flocked to Hamburg's Reeperbahn.

Hodgson expresses his pride at Fulham players despite final loss

Roy Hodgson has insisted he couldn't be more proud of his Fulham side despite losing the Europa League final to Atletico Madrid in Hamburg on Wednesday night.

Hodgson, who was recently crowned LMA manager of the year, guided his Fulham side on an unbelievable European journey that saw them claim famous scalps over Roma, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk and Hamburg.

But unfortunately for the Cottagers it proved a step too far as they fell victim to an extra time winning goal from Diego Forlan for the Spanish side.

Hodgson said after the game: "I couldn't be more proud of these players for this season and this performance tonight has summed up what we are at Fulham.

"They have performed against the odds and pulled results no-one expected them to pull out. You can't be happy being defeated especially in extra time but I don't have a word of criticism for these players."

Atletico took the lead through Forlan just after the half hour mark but Fulham equalised five minutes later thanks to a well taken Simon Davies volley.

And until Forlan's late dramatic winner Hodgson thought his side gave the Spanish side a run for their money and thought they were heading for penalties.

"I thought we gave them more than a good game, we were good value and it looked as if it was heading for penalties which of course is a bit of a lottery anyway but we would have taken that lottery", Hodgson added.

Hodgson also praised the efforts of 12,400 Fulham fans who travelled from west London to Germany in the hope of witnessing history in the making.

He said: "I thought the fans were magnificent as usual and I think they realise we have done the best possible job we could do and unfortunately it favoured against us when it came to lifting the trophy."


Roy Hodgson has admitted he will need to let the pain subside before he can work out whether there will be any lingering benefits from Fulham's run to the Europa League final.

An amazing 17-match journey, that began in Lithuania last July, came to a shattering conclusion in Hamburg on Wednesday night thanks to Diego Forlan's goal three minutes from the end of extra-time.

It means that not only did Fulham lose the biggest match in their history, it also condemned them to a season without European football given the safety net of entry via UEFA's Fair Play Table had already been removed by England's slide down the rankings.

So Hodgson needs to look more closely to work out what advantages Fulham have gained beyond the prestige of reaching their first European final.

"When you look round a dressing room at a team that has just lost a final, you don't think about what a boost you have received, or how it will help us next season," said Hodgson.

"Before that you have to suffer. And it will take a bit of time before that pain passes over.

"Maybe when that pain has gone we can turn our attention to whether it has done us any good."

Undoubtedly it has enhanced Hodgson's reputation.

The former Inter Milan coach has already been named the League Managers' Association manager of the year and the links to Liverpool have come as no great surprise as Rafael Benitez's future continues to be the subject of great debate.

As Benitez is by no means certain to leave amid the internal issues that still have to be resolved at Anfield, a more obvious career path for the 62-year-old would be to take charge of the British Olympic team, and from there move on to the England job.

The prestigious Olympic job cannot be allocated until the British Olympic Association finally confirm the team will be made up of English players only, the compromise that was reached by the Home Nations amid fears about their standing within FIFA.

However, Hodgson has been spoken of as one of two clear candidates, the other being present England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce.

As the Olympic team would be an Under-23 side, plus three overage players, there would seem to be sense in opting for Pearce, but in terms of the potential for succeeding Fabio Capello, whose contract expires in 2012, Hodgson would be a better bet.

Crucially, former chief executive Ian Watmore was Pearce's biggest backer and with him now out of the frame, Lord Triesman's leaning towards Hodgson might mean the FA chairman gets his way.

Few would debate Hodgson as a worthy successor to Capello, having proved beyond all doubt in his three years at Craven Cottage what an able and steady manager he is.

However, he is also aware that by staying at Fulham next season he will deny himself the wider competition he has always seemed to crave, and hand himself a potential rebuilding exercise given seven players are out of contract at the end of next season.

"Next season will be a quite straightforward Premier League season," he reflected.

"Having said that, the Premier League, like Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga, is one of the very top leagues in Europe.

"Just being a part of it in itself is something really important."

Simon Davies admits Europa League final defeat hard to take

Fulham midfielder Simon Davies has admitted he is struggling to deal with the heartbreak of losing the Europa League final in extra time to Atletico Madrid.

The Welshman equalised for the Cottagers with a fine volleyed effort minutes after Diego Forlan had given the Spanish side the lead in the first half. The Uruguayan forward then snatched a late winner in extra time and after the game Davies expressed his pain at coming so close to European glory.

"I thought we put a great shift in but it's a shame to get so close," he said.

"But I'm sure once we get home and look back on it we'll feel we've achieved something but at this moment in time it's very painful."

Davies scored in Fulham's previous Europa League tie against Hamburg in the semi-final where they came from a goal down to win 2-1. But despite scoring again in the final, he admitted he was struggling to deal with the defeat.

"To score in the final of a big tournament is something I am going to be proud of in years to come but it's very hard," he added.

Fulham seemed to be in control of the game in the second half and Davies himself could have doubled his and Fulham's tally but was denied by a fine stop from 19-year-old goalkeeper David De Gea.

"We played some good football in patches. We knew they were a good team and we would have to dig in parts and work really hard and we did that," he added.

"But we knew we were going to cause them some problems it's just a shame we came so close. We congratulate Atletico Madrid - they're a great side."

England - Zamora was forced to miss out
The talk, in the wake of Bobby Zamora, one of the most in-form strikers in the country - until his recent injury problems anyway - being omitted from Fabio Capello's provisional world cup squad has been just that, that he was 'omitted'...

Although it would appear more and more as if he was not overlooked, merely forced to miss out.

The Fulham man has been struggling with an Achilles injury in recent weeks, this has been obvious for anyone watching him - and was all the more evident to anyone that watched him during Fulham's Europa league final defeat last night. He battled on for as long as he could before finally being forced off in the 2nd half.

Words coming from Zamora, and Capello as well, seem to suggest that it was Zamora who ruled himself out because he would not have been able to 'do himself justice' in South Africa.

He is now scheduled to have a minor operation in the coming weeks - I wonder if Darren Bent would have made the 30 had Zamora been fit or would Capello have selected both? They are different players, so you would like to think that both would have been included with Aston Villa's Emile Heskey 'probably' the one that could well have been overlooked?

Nevertheless this is all hypothetical now, Zamora's time might yet come for England - it is just a shame for everyone that the chance to prove he would have been worthy of a place in South Africa was never possible...

Read more:

Brede hoping Hodgson Hang-s around

Brede Hangeland has led the chorus of pleas for Roy Hodgson to stay at Craven Cottage by warning Fulham it is imperative they keep him.

Hodgson's reputation has soared since guiding the club to their highest top-flight finish and the final of the Europa League, while operating on a modest budget.

The 62-year-old has been linked with a move to Liverpool and has even been mentioned as Fabio Capello's most likely successor when the England coach steps down.

While some of Fulham's over-achieving players may also now attract interest from rival clubs, Hangeland insists their newly-crowned Manager of the Year remains the key asset.

"Roy's the main reason we reached the Europa League final, it's as simple as that," said the Norway defender.

"We have a good group of players who have worked hard but it's all masterminded by him. He's done really well.

"I don't know what will happen now but I hope he stays because he's been so important to the success we've had over the last two years.

"Probably the most important thing for us over the summer is to make sure that he stays."

Former England left-back Paul Konchesky is one of several players who has seen his career revived by Hodgson's arrival.

"Roy is a big factor for the players and for the club," said Konchesky. "He's done well for the two and a half years he's been here and hopefully we can keep him and kick on again next year.

"The work he puts us through on the training ground and the squad he's built make him stand out.

"Whoever plays, they know exactly what they're doing. We've stuck together and that comes from the manager and the staff."

Hodgson's first spell in the Premier League ended under a cloud 12 years ago when he was sacked by Blackburn and only now is his nomadic and illustrious career receiving the recognition it deserves at home.

Under his expert guidance, Bobby Zamora has blossomed into one of the nation's form strikers who was on the verge of England recognition only for an Achilles injury to intervene.

"Roy has been absolutely magnificent and deserves all the praise he's been getting this season," said Zamora.

"If you ask any team this season they'll tell you how hard we are to beat.

"That comes from the gaffer - his organisation and willingness to work."

Wales midfielder Simon Davies, who fired the equaliser in last night's 2-1 extra-time defeat by Atletico Madrid, is confident Hodgson will stay.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he has offers on the table but he said he wants to continue with the job," he said. "I know he really likes Fulham and he's been a top manager since he's been here."

Cole and Zamora on Blues' shopping list

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is monitoring West Ham hitman Carlton Cole and Fulham forward Bobby Zamora as possible summer striker targets.

McLeish has indicated he will spread the net far and wide to bring in new forward talent after missing out on Stuttgart's Cacau.

Rangers' out-of-contract forward Boyd is also on McLeish's radar and negotiations have been ongoing in recent months.

But reports that he is on the verge of completing a deal for South Africa striker Katelgo Mphela appear to be wide of the mark.

Mphela is not near the top of McLeish's list of forwards and sources close to the club indicate the former Rangers boss would want to take him on trial after the World Cup.

But McLeish has made enquiries about the availability of Cole and Zamora after insisting the accent will be on bringing in players of proven quality.

Cole has netted 10 times for the Hammers this season while Zamora has been on the mark on 19 occasions, although he was clearly not 100% fit in Wednesday night's Europa League final against Atletico Madrid in Hamburg.

The fact Blues are even interested in players of such quality is an indication of their determination to build on an excellent first season back in the top flight in which they finished ninth.

McLeish admitted defeat in his bid to sign Cacau after the player did a U-turn and decided to stay with the German club.

The 29-year-old looked poised to move to Blues with McLeish believing he would have been an ideal addition to his current squad but Cacau has instead signed a new deal with Stuttgart.

McLeish confirmed: "We did miss out on Cacau. We thought we had it in the bag and he did an about turn.

"The irony was when we declared our interest in him, he was out of the team.

"I don't know whether our interest in him gave him a lot more confidence because he then went on a scoring burst and Stuttgart said there was no way they could let him go with what it would cost to replace somebody like that.

"He is one that got away. It would have been a coup for us, the type of player for the jigsaw I am trying to put together but we will keep working to strengthen the squad."

McLeish is still hopeful of signing Manchester United keeper Ben Foster in a £6million deal as a replacement for Manchester City's Joe Hart who spent the season on loan from St Andrew's.

McLeish said: "I can go and buy any amount of players but maybe not get the right ones. It is important I bring the right ones in for the way I want to see us play.

"I will bring in the players I feel are going to benefit our team.

"It will be a busy time. There will be no let-up. The phone will be on wherever I am on holiday."

Meanwhile, former Birmingham striker and manager Trevor Francis has had his hopes of returning to the club in an ambassadorial role dashed by the board of directors.

Francis looked set to make a comeback at St Andrew's where he had a distinguished spell as a player in the 1970s and then two decades later as a manager.

But after holding initial talks with the board, Francis revealed he received a letter telling him the proposed link-up had been shelved.

Francis, who now works as a pundit for Sky Sports, said: "Alex McLeish believed I was coming back because he congratulated me on coming back to the club.

"I held a meeting at top level with a couple of directors and I was very enthusiastic about coming back.

"They listened to what I had to say, I thought it was very positive, and then two weeks later I received a letter from the board saying they didn't want to pursue it.

"It is a bit of a disappointment. I still remain a huge Birmingham supporter but I feel I could have done a real good job for the club in an ambassadorial role.

"Is that about money? I don't know. It may have been money. It is not for me to ask the reason.

"I just wish the club would make it clear to supporters who come up to me and say 'it's great to have you back at the club' that I am not back at Birmingham City."

Fulham are clearly more than a club - they are a lifestyle choice
As Fulham's weary army of supporters return home following their team's harsh Europa League final defeat, as Lily Allen dries her eyes and Hugh Grant leaves a healthy tip for the nice man who kept bringing him beer throughout the game, we have to wonder: has there ever been a more polite collective of football followers to leave these shores?

A couple of years back, a friend of mine was horrified by a bunch of Rangers fans he happened to share a plane with on their way to a Champions League tie in Spain. Primeval was how he described their attitude to the cabin crew.

Fulham's supporters, on the hand, overwhelmingly behaved in Hamburg like a finishing school outing. And their numbers are likely to be swelled by many a like mind following their magnificent European adventure.

Including that Rangers-averse friend of mine. He is now living in west London and, although a long term supporter of another club, he tells me he has just bought season tickets for Craven Cottage.

It is, he explains, a delightful place to take his two young sons, the most civilised setting he knows for a bit of father-son bonding.

Like Barcelona, Fulham are clearly more than a club. They are a lifestyle choice.

Fulham - The Zamora Gamble!
Bobby Zamora, after limping off in the semi-final second leg against Hamburg, was always rated as doubtful for the Europa League Final.

Only some marvelous work from the medical staff enabled Bobby to take his place in the starting line up last night and, with the nature of his injury, there was always going to be a chance he`d not survive the full ninety minutes.

To be honest, Bobby looked to be in some discomfort every time he touched the ball but to his credit he gave his all.

It was always gong to be a gamble starting with Bobby but it was a gamble that, in our opinion, came off.

Apart from playing a major part in Simon Davies` goal, Bobby was instrumental in holding the ball whenever Fulham were looking to ease the Atletico Madrid pressure and push forward themselves.

It was a feature of our game that we lacked once Bobby had conceded he could no longer continue. Balls up field were not held and, inevitably, Madrid were able to put us on the back foot more as the game wore on.

Whilst admitting playing Bobby was always going to be a gamble, our only misgiving was that it was one that couldn`t be played out for the full ninety minutes, if it had, who knows!

Talking about the situation, post match, Bobby had this to say about his struggle and also the planned remedial action,

"I was struggling but I was desperate to play."

"It was touch and go for me to make the final but it`s a major tournament and I`ve worked all season to get there so I wanted to play some part."

"I`m going to weigh everything up with the medical team now but it looks like I might need a minor operation."

"The decision will be made over the next day or two but the operation is penciled in for a week`s time."

Have the operation Bobby and come back next season as fit as a fiddle.

Read more:

Fulham - Dempsey Claims a First!
Last night may well have seen Fulham Football Club achieve a club milestone by appearing in their first major European Final but it also produced another interesting milestone.

We`re reliably informed that when Clint Dempsey came on as a second half substitute; he became the first American to make an appearance in a major European final.

Kudos to Clint!

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Fulham - A Moral Victory!
Okay! We come second but we can still hold our heads high!

We shocked Europe and claimed some big scalps on the way, in fact you might be unaware of the fact that 192 teams participated in a competition that saw our club rack up in excess of 20,000 air miles.

Second out of 192, it sounds pretty damn good to me!

We may have been chasing our first major trophy since our formation in 1879 but we can take comfort in the fact that we survived the longest out of all those teams that were entered solely into the Europa League.

Atletico Madrid only bounced into our competition after exiting the Champions League.

In my book that gives us a moral victory does it not!

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Fulham - Fair Play League!
Our loss, to Atletico Madrid, last night means that Craven Cottage will not witness European football next season.

A victory last night was the only way in which we could qualify for the Europa League next season.

Any hopes of finishing high enough in the Premier League, to qualify, diminished as the season progressed whilst one last possible entrance route was slammed in our faces just recently.

English football had high hopes of being awarded an extra Europa League place through the Fair Play scheme.

Our exemplary disciplinary record meant that we were prime candidates to qualify; indeed if we`d have won the Europa League relegated Burnley were the club likely to fulfill that place.

Sadly, that door was slammed shut when UEFA awarded the Fair Play places to the Scandinavian trio of Norway, Finland and Sweden.

It looks like, for us, all our efforts will be concentrate don the domestic competitions next season but it does have the added bonus that we`ll not be playing 63 competitive games and we`ll not be playing competitive football as early as July like this season.

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Hodgson will stay says Fulham director

LONDON (AFP) - Fulham will do everything in their power to keep manager Roy Hodgson at Craven Cottage after his team's fairytale run to the Europa League final ended in defeat to Atletico Madrid.

Hodgson and his players headed back to England disconsolate after Diego Forlan's goal four minutes from the end of extra-time gave Atletico a 2-1 win in Hamburg on Wednesday.

However, Hodgson will be a hot property during the close-season after his unfashionable team eliminated Juventus, Hamburg, Wolfsburg and Shakhtar Donetsk on the way to the final.

The former Inter Milan coach has already seen his name mentioned in connection with Liverpool and England if those jobs became available.

But Fulham director Michael Cole said: "He is integral to the club, a very great manager. And as (club owner) Mohamed al Fayed has said, he's more than a manager - he's a very great human being.

"We do think he will stay and I think he'll be at Fulham because essentially he has what every manager says he wants - a free hand and the confidence of the chairman. By and large he gets the support he requires in the way he wants it."

Fulham director expects 'integral' Hodgson to say
Fulham chief Michael Cole hopes Roy Hodgson stays at Craven Cottage

Fulham director Michael Cole insists Roy Hodgson is "integral" to the club.

The Cottagers' hopes of winning their first European trophy were dashed on Wednesday night in Hamburg as Europa League final opponents Atletico Madrid scored an extra-time goal to win 2-1.

Hodgson revealed his desperate disappointment after the match but is expecting to fulfil his contract and be in charge of the club for the 2010-11 Barclays Premier League season.

"He is integral to the club, a very great manager. And as (club owner) Mohamed al Fayed has said, he's more than a manager - he's a very great human being," Cole told Sky Sports News.

"We do think he will stay and I think he'll be at Fulham because essentially he has what every manager says he wants - a free hand and the confidence of the chairman. By and large he gets the support he requires in the way he wants it."

Cole insists al Fayed will not end in his interest in the Cottagers after it was revealed last week that he is deciding to sell Harrods and retire - even hinting it could be good news for the club.

The Qatari royal family are buying the store for a reported £1.5billion through Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority, which trades on behalf of the state.

Cole added: "Mohamed al Fayed carried out a brilliant deal for Harrods. There is some regret that he is selling but he has improved the shop.

"What he'll do in the future I think is a question for him, not me. But because he's sold the shop he's not going to sell the club.

"Because you sell your house you do not necessarily sell your car - you might even upgrade it if you sell your house for a tidy sum."

Fulham - Bittersweet Reflection
The day of destiny came and the day of destiny passed us by.

No trophy will grace Craven Cottage this year; despite the belief, despite the desire and despite the hunger.

Fulham played their hearts out and battled until the end; in itself, being a great achievement.

We were gracious in defeat and dignified in despair. The season of hope for Fulham, crumbled in the hands of Atletico Madrid.

The emotions that passed through me, and many other Fulham fans last night are truly not surmountable in word form.

With emotion, though, comes reflection, and disregarding the bitter sorrow we all collectively felt last night, not just as Fulham, but as an English representative; we did ourselves truly proud.

Simply to be in a major European Final is a magnificent achievement, and, in the chaos and tears that followed in Germany, we must all treasure the journey that led us to Hamburg in this, the season 2009/10.

It was dubbed the year to remember and it still is the year to remember, defeat aside.

Nobody will ever forget the victories over Shakhtar, Juventus and Hamburg alike. Nobody in the Black and White of Fulham will fail to remember the 2009/10 season for all the elation, desperation and memories it has brought every single one of us.

The World has viewed our courage and grit and openly applauded it. We are a recognised force, not just in the Premier League, but now in Europe.

We were given the opportunity to surpass expectation. To jump huge hurdles. And we snapped at the opportunity.

Fulham FC, with our support and the tutorship of Roy Hodgson and his staff, have made history.

I will never forget. Nobody will ever forget.

We believed 'til the very end. We are Fulham.

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10 reasons why Roy Hodgson should stay at Fulham next season

Well, the dream may have died last night for Fulham in the Europa League but they can hold their heads high. What they achieved by reaching the final against Atletico Madrid is amazing and all involved in the club have done England proud.

Now the job begins to take this success into the summer and the next campaign. But will Roy Hodgson still be leading the charge down at the Cottage. We hope so, and here's 10 reasons why we think he should/will be.

1) There's actually 1.5 BILLION reasons to be honest. That's said to be the amound Mr Al Fayed received for selling Harrods and now he is retiring what better way to spend it than on making the club world-beaters. Tevez to Fulham? Messi maybe? With that kind of cash, anything is possible.

2) LIVERPOOL are a shambles. Why would Hodgson want to go to a club up for sale, a team about to lose its prize assets and a side that are only just getting into the Europa League. It'd be such a risk to even consider a move to the big time, Hodgson could be a massive fish in a smaller pond. At Anfield he'd get chewed up and spat out like a sardine.

3) FABIO CAPELLO won't be leaving England any time soon. The Italian should steer us to a decent World Cup campaign and he'd have to be given a chance to lead us into the Euros in 2012. And just because Roy managed a Fulham team to a final, doesn't mean he could do it on the world stage. Another season of success though and who knows!

4) He is 62! ROY HODGSON should really be thinking about his exit plan from the beautiful game and staying with Fulham until he does retire, creating something very special, has to be much more enjoyable than major stress at a top five club here or abroad. He has been there and done that. Now's the time to leave a legacy.

5) He's bitter. And that means he'll want another crack. FULHAM won't be in Europe next term but a good challenge in the Premier League and Cups is what they need to prove themselves. A trophy and top six finish could well happen without the distraction of Europe and some money to spend.

6) He wants to STAY. Well so he says. "But as far as my future goes, I have never given it a thought. I've always been committed to Fulham and still am." Enough said. You heard it from the horses mouth.

7) He has two and a half years left on his CONTRACT. That's enough time to really move the club on and have another season in Europe and try again to go one better than this year. Why waste time starting again from scratch.

8) He needs to keep BOBBY ZAMORA. If Hodgson stays and can get the striker to stay too, he'll be onto a winner. Look what he's done while struggling with injury. Imagine what a fully-fit Bobby could achieve. Duff, Murphy, Konchesky and Hangeland would also be key to keeping the nucleus of the side in shape.

9) Other than the top clubs, anyone else would be a come down. Why move to West Ham or whichever other side decides to sack their gaffer this summer. We think Roy is a man of honour and can't see him wanting away for the sake of it, or even for more money and a better deal.

10) The fans love him and he was named League Manager's Association Manager of the Year this week. One swallow doesn't make a summer but Fulham's progress under Roy Hodgson is not in doubt and if the chairman does break out that chequebook, they could be a real force to be reckoned with.

Fulham eye Curtis Davies as Martin O'Neill looks to offload six Aston Villa players

Fulham are interested in Aston Villa central defender Curtis Davies who is one of six players earmarked to leave the club this summer. Davies, 25, joined Villa from West Bromwich Albion in 2008 for £8m.

But he has suffered with injuries and Villa will take around £5m to get him off the pay roll.

Fulham are also keen on Nicky Shorey and Steve Sidwell while Villa's Luke Young, Habib Beye and Nigel Reo-Coker are also likely to be sold.

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SIMON Davies last night admitted Roy Hodgson is the best manager he has ever worked with – and pleaded with him not to quit Fulham.

Hodgson was voted manager of the year for getting his team to an unexpected Europa League final, and has been linked with the Liverpool job.

Davies scored Fulham's goal in their heartbreaking 2-1 extra-time defeat by Atletico Madrid in Hamburg.

The Welsh star said: "You leave yourself open to get hurt more when you start believing that you can win it.

"We have had an attitude all along the way that you do not dare to believe, but getting to the final you want to win. it is just a shame that we did not manage it.

"Roy Hodgson is definitely the best manager I have ever worked with, 100 per cent. The way he has organised a
team like us and got us to a final and an occasion like this is remarkable.

"We are very proud to work with the manager and I would not be surprised if he had offers on the table and I am sure he is going to get that.

"It has been a great journey this year and we would love to continue it and for him to stay with us."

As well as missing out on the trophy, the players never found out what bonus Fulham's flamboyant owner Mohamed al Fayed had in line for them.

Davies added: "Mohamed al Fayed was in the dressing room before the game and told us we would get a big bonus for winning the final and we were looking forward to seeing what it would be.

"We got a Harrods gift card for reaching the final so we were wondering what it might be!"


BOBBY Zamora last night opened his heart about his England and Europa League final nightmare.

The Fulham striker, 29, could have been going to the World Cup if he had not picked up an Achilles injury six weeks ago.

And he effectively hobbled and limped his way through 55 minutes of the biggest night of his life on Wednesday
when Fulham lost the final to Atletico Madrid.

Things could have been so much different for Fulham and Zamora if he had been fully fit.

And he explained how he had to come clean with England boss Fabio Capello about his real prospects of playing in South Africa.

Zamora said: "It was a decision between four lots of people, to be honest. Our medical staff, their medical men, myself and the management team with England.

"The injury came at the worst possible time but I'm so proud of the lads at Fulham."

Celtic know price for Fulham striker Kamara

Celtic are closing in on Fulham striker Diomansy Kamara.

The Daily Record says Celtic could keep Kamara for a cut-price £2.5million.

The Senegalese striker has been a hit at Parkhead since arriving on loan from Europa League finalists Fulham at the end of January.

Despite being hampered by a hamstring injury Kamara has impressed Celtic supporters with strong performances and three goals.

The 29-year-old has indicated he would like to make the move from Craven Cottage a permanent arrangement - but the Hoops hierarchy are going to have to stump up.