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Roy of the Fulham just loving it

last updated Friday 02nd January 2009, 10:36 PM

Premiership Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson wants to emulate his good friend Sir Bobby Robson by staying in management until he is 70 - and he cannot imagine a better place to be than Craven Cottage.

Hodgson, 61, has just enjoyed one of the best years of his colourful and varied career after guiding Fulham from the brink of relegation into the top half of the Barclays Premier League table.

Apart from brief stints at Bristol City and Blackburn , Hodgson made his name managing abroad. He led Inter Milan to the UEFA Cup final and guided Switzerland to two major championships - the 1994 World Cup and Euro '96.

In many ways, Hodgson considers those overseas successes to be his greatest achievements but admits there is something heart-warming about returning home and achieving something with Fulham.

Hodgson still has 18 months remaining on his contract but would sign a new one if it was presented to him. Robson managed Newcastle past his 72nd birthday and Hodgson believes he has plenty of years left in him.

"I've had a great time in my career. I've worked in great places, with good clubs and great national teams and it's been largely successful throughout," said Hodgson.

"It's nice to come back and feel you have respect from your fellow pros and the players you work with.

"When I came I knew I was taking on a difficult task and that the odds of failing were greater than the odds of success, but the players and the staff backed me so well during that time and we were lucky enough to get the big prize - another crack at the Premiership.

"Everything about Fulham has more than matched my expectations and the club matches my ambitions. I don't dream of bigger and better things as I think I have a very good thing at the moment.

"I think I would like to keep going. I have never contemplated retirement and I really do enjoy the day-to-day work, the day-to-day coaching.

"So for me the situation I find myself in at the moment is as optimum a situation as I could wish for. All I hope is that we as a team and a club are good enough to keep going and I shall be more than happy where I am."

And at a time when young managers like Roy Keane and Paul Ince have been struggling, there is something to be said for that touch of experience.

Fulham's draw with London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea over the Christmas period means they go into Saturday's FA Cup tie on the back of a nine-match unbeaten run and are full confidence.

Fulham have no plans to do any business in the January transfer window and Hodgson hopes to fend off interest in the likes of midfielder Jimmy Bullard and defender Brede Hangeland.

"What you really want for Christmas is to win every match you play - but to come out of tough matches against Tottenham and Chelsea unbeaten, and to continue our good run, was a perfectly good Christmas present," said Hodgson.

"The pressures are always there, the hard work always has to be there but I feel very comfortable with this group of players and I know they won't let the club down.

"I can't guarantee they'll win every game and I can't guarantee they'll play well every week. But I know that when I put them on the field they'll do everything to get that result for the club - that's a nice feeling to have.

"At the moment no-one has made any offers for the players. All I can say is I hope nothing happens with those two, I hope they remain Fulham players."

Hodgson may look back fondly on the lost magic of the FA Cup but he is acutely aware of the practicalities of modern life, in which top-flight survival is always the priority.

And, without the unwell Bullard, he plans to shuffle his pack for the trip to Sheffield Wednesday.

"When I was a young boy reading the Charles Buchan football annuals the FA Cup was something spectacular and the thought of playing in an FA Cup final came second only to representing your country," said Hodgson.

"What has happened in the Premier League over the last 15 years has, to some extent, taken away a bit of the glamour. Winning the FA Cup is a great thing to do but it doesn't compare with staying in the Premiership.

"I will be very disappointed if we lose. If we are not capable of going through to the fourth round I will regard that as a failure.

"But if you had to say would you rather have a great FA Cup run or survival in the Premiership, I would choose survival in the Premiership."

Source Alex Lowe at PA Sport
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