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Hodgson and Fulham Set To Continue The Good Work

Over the years since he bought an ailing and abject club, Mohamed Al Fayed has certainly made some “interesting” decisions over the years. Whilst Mickey Adams was rewarded for taking the team up to Division One by being sacked in September 1997,  after Al  Fayed deemed him “not high profile enough”, Fulham were making major progress under Adams. Eventually Al-Fayed returned them to the top tier of English football after an absence of 32 years which was certainly some achievement. Yet, for me, his best achievement by some way was the decision to appoint Roy Hodgson to attempt and keep Fulham in the Premiership.

As he looks set to extend his stay with a new contract, the sky is the limit for Fulham under Hodgson.Christmas 2007 saw Fulham rooted in the relegation zone, after Lawrie Sanche’z disastrous tenure as manager. A reliance on Championship players and a high defensive line with no pace saw them caught out time and again and it was no surprise that Sanchez was given his marching orders. Hodgson came in to try and keep a side up and it seemed a tough ask, even for someone of his talents.

Of course, Fulham’s heriocs under Hodgson that season are well documented, but they pushed on again last season to finish 7th, their highest ever league finish in the top flight of English football, bringing with it a chance to compete in Europe for only the second time in the club’s history. Currently sitting in 10th, nicely placed behind the pack chasing 4th place, Fulham are in their best shape for years. There is no doubting the effect that Hodgson has had on the side and Fulham have gone from strength to strength under his stewardship.

The capture of Brede Hangeland, coupled with the renaissance of Danny Murphy along with several other canny signings, notably Damien Duff, has continued to build on the confidence that avoiding relegation created. Sometimes when a side avoids relegation, it can simply be a case of denying the inevitable, but Fulham have used it as a springboard to bigger and better things. Utilising his skills gained in international and continental football has given them a more expansive and clever brand of football, that makes them hard to beat.

Playing a brand of pacey, strong and fast flowing football has always been Hodgson’s calling card, wherever he’s been and Fulham are in the best shape they’ve been in for years now. With the oft mooted expansion of Craven Cottage looking to be finally sorted, a top quality manager and probably the best side they’ve ever had at the Cottage, Fulham fans can look forward with renewed optimism.

Of course, if there is one thing that Fulham currently lack, it’s strength upfront. Whilst Zamora and Johnson have tons of Premiership experience, they’ve lacked goals. Zamora especially receives plenty of stick for his goal return, but his undoubted strength is his ability to bring other players in to the game.

Johnson has been struggling with injuries the last couple of years and has now been ruled out for a while. Since his amazing season with Crystal Palace in 2004-2005 when he hit 21 league goals, he’s never scored more than 10 in a Premiership campaign.

The reserve options don’t fill me with confidence but I’m sure Hodgson will now make a move in the market come January 1st. With only Nevland, Kamara and Ki-Hyeon to come in for Johnson, getting an established goalscorer is crucial to Fulham to continue to improve on the great work that they’ve achieved over the last two years. With Hodgson in charge, anything is possible but he’ll know goals win games and at the moment, Fulham’s forward line don’t have enough in them.

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  1. Dante

    November 30, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Absolutely loved the article!

    I stumbled upon the EPL three years ago when Comcast put the NFL Network on a “special” sports tier. I fell in love with it ever since. One of the first games I watched on Fox Soccer was a Fulham home game. I remember being mesmerized by the Cottage. Just as I was when I first stepped foot into Wrigley Field. It just had an aura to it. I had heard of the MAN U and Chelsea’s of the World but wasn’t very sharp with the smaller clubs out there. I was instantly hooked and have loved them ever since.

    I hardly miss a game and even talked my wife into making a pit stop in London last year on our way to Italy for a family vacation. I just had to witness the Cottage and the Cottagers first hand. I was lucky enough to get first row, center pitch, tickets for an early September fixture with Bolton. I was like a kid in a candy store. I had as much passion for this team as I do for all of my beloved Philadelphia Sports teams. They raced out to a 2-nill lead and after Bolton scored a late goal they hung on to win 2-1!

    I have been to most mainstream American sporting events but that moment will always rank up there as one of my favorites of all time and I will never forget it.

    It’s amazing that last year they managed to have their best finish ever in their 130 year history! In only my 2nd year as a fan, they managed to capture that feet. I almost chuckled at that fact. It took a moment to sink in and as I sat there on the last day of the season all I could do was flashback to the previous year.

    It was Mother’s day 2008. I remember we were on a long drive to visit some family for the day. Knowing the harsh reality that stared me in the face with the possibility of Fulham being relegated. The sports I root for have no relegation! This was all too new to me. This truly was a life and death moment for my beloved Cottagers! I sat their frantically refreshing my phone for updates. All we need is a goal to avoid relegation. Portsmouth for sure wouldn’t be playing full strength on this day as they had their big FA Cup final on the horizon. But to my surprise, this however would be no easy feat. Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp, himself a survivor of several relegation scrapes (West Ham in 1995 and 1997 as well as Portsmouth in 2006), promised to field a full-strength side. With 15 minutes to play Fulham were again mathematically relegated with Birmingham City and Reading leading comfortably. However Kamara earned Fulham a free-kick with 76 minutes played, and Bullard’s delivery found Danny Murphy who headed home the decisive goal, sparking manic celebrations from the travelling fans. Hodgson had ensured survival against all odds, breaking several club records in the process and cementing his place in Fulham folklore.

    Three years of memories that could last a lifetime! After learning more and more about how the EPL system works, I understand that there are the haves and have-nots. I am glad that I have picked a team that is gritty and tough. It would be much too easy to sit here and root for Man U. This team may not have a large trophy case or pockets as deep as MAN U. But they certainly have heart and they have won mine!

    • David

      November 30, 2009 at 6:38 pm

      Great story, Dante. Funny that you stopped in London for that Bolton game. I was working abroad for four months in London and was at that same one in the Hamey End!

      • Dante

        November 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

        Dave what a small world! That is sooo funny budy! I remember the PA announcer as we walked in the stadium announcing that “summer has finally arrived” because the summer was abolsutley miserable! Are you a big fan or just went to the game?

  2. David

    November 30, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Good read for sure. Glad to see a piece on this hidden gem of a club. Hodgson has helped tremendously in giving the club an identity in the league, and I look forward to him bringing in a couple new faces up front as well!

  3. Dan

    November 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Good article, but there’s one thing always grates with me when people introduce Al-Fayed’s investment. You write:

    ‘Taking a team that had fallen to it’s lowest ebb and eventually returning them to the top tier of English football after an absence of 32 years was certainly some achievement’

    It would be a great achievement, if it were true. Frequently, correspondents forget that Fulham achieved promotion under Micky Adams, who had taken over a team bound for relegation from Division Three and had no money to spend. Adams halted the slide, steadied the ship, saved Fulham from relegation and then said ‘judge me on the results next season’.

    With no signifcant investment (most of the signings were loans or free transfers), Adams took a team of journeyman and young players to promotion, missing out on the title on goals scored. It was only in the middle of the following pre-season that Al-Fayed bought out Jimmy Hill. So, it would be correct to see that it was Adams and Alan Cork who started Fulham’s rise and not Al-Fayed.

    Hodgson’s obviously an excellent manager – arguably one of the best the club’s ever had – and the best thing about his achievement is that the progress has continued this season, when Fulham were expected to struggle due to our European commitments.

    • Paul Bestall

      November 30, 2009 at 12:19 pm

      My apologies, he certainly did, in fact after buying Fulham, his next major decision was to sack Adams, deemed as not sexy enough for his aspirations of Premiership football.

      • Dan

        December 1, 2009 at 7:44 am

        Yep, although I’d contend that MAF didn’t open the purse strings for Adams as he did for his sucessors and we had the making of a good side in Div 2 that year that Wilkins butchered.

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