Why doesn’t Roy Hodgson get the credit he deserves in the United Kingdom? As I’ve mentioned before, In Scandinavia and Italy, he’s held in high regard, in Britain people point to his sacking at Blackburn Rovers back in1997. With 33 points gained so far this season, Fulham are one win away from emulating their points total for last season already.Hodgson is a class act, he knows his football, his list of contacts stretches world wide.
Fulham, under Hodgson, have begun to repair the damage that Lawrie Sanchez’s reign presided over, as Hodgson has looked to ship out some of the deadwood that arrived during the former Northern Ireland managers spell. Sanchez’s problem seemed to be his obsession with signing players he’d worked with at Northern Ireland, tallied with a depressing addiction to long ball football and a high defensive line, whilst using defenders not blessed with pace.
This season, after keeping them up by the skin or their teeth last year, has seen Hodgson add to the canny signings he made in the transfer window of 2008. Capturing the new strike force of Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora in the summer has been key to allowing Hodgson to implement his footballing philosophy on the Cottagers. Johnson with his pace and eye for key combined with Zamora’s strength and ability to hold the ball up has given them a new dimension, it allows Fulham to break and bring more players in to attacking positions. With Danny Murphy and Simon Davies resurgent this year, their seems to be no worrying about a relegation scrap, simply looking to finish as high as possible in the Premiership. They could even possible match or surpass their best Premiership finish of 9th, which was earned under Chris Coleman in 2004.
With the tightness of the Premierships bottom 14 sides, 7th is not beyond Hodgson and his Fulham side, they showed just how much better they are than the bottom side West Bromich on Sunday with an impressive footballing display. 2-0 frankly flattered West Brom, they were never in the game, Danny Murphy imperious in a midfield display that harked back to his days for Liverpool and England. An F.A. Cup Quarter Final against Manchester United awaits in March. The transfer of Jimmy Bullard now looks a masterstroke.
Yet there is still room for improvement. Whilst their home record is currently the 2nd best in the Premiership, they share an unenviable record with Stoke City in not achieving an away win this season with only 6 draws and 3 goals scored in 13 matches away from Craven Cottage. A decent away record could have seen them challenging Everton and Arsenal for a UEFA cup spot. That said though, they’ve earned impressive draws at Liverpool, Tottenham and Aston Villa, if Hodgson can nick a couple of away wins towards the back end of the season at say Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City and Newcastle who knows where they could end up.
Hodgson knows his team need strengthening in the summer, a striker to compliment Zamora and Johnson is paramount, when fit and available, they’ve started every single game and more midfield depth to cover his first choice combination of Murphy, Davies, Dempsey and Gera. The return to form of Ethuhu and the loan signing of Olivier Dacourt shows where Hodgson needs to add options. The back four could also do with more depth, as the back four seems to pick itself currently.
Allied with another expansion of the stadium, it seems 4000 seats are to be added, a top ten finish can give them something to build on. The board of Fulham keep increasing the capacity where they can as they try to push it up to 30,000. The Hammersmith End is ripe for increased capacity and will add vital revenue to the clubs coffers.
Fulham can be pleased with their progression this season, but Hodgson and the fans know they need to start winning games away from Craven Cottage for real progress to be made.