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Hodgson accepts draw against Spurs

last updated Monday 08th March 2010, 10:06 AM
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson
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As Fulham manager Roy Hodgson switched seamlessly from English into perfect Italian, he provided a graphic illustration of the scale and success of his reconstruction on the banks of the Thames.

Hodgson had finished discussing Fulham's fight on equal terms with Tottenham to reach the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley - and was moving on to the Europa League date with "The Old Lady" of Juventus in Turin on Thursday.

This cosmopolitan and experienced manager has brought heady days to Craven Cottage, and his presence alone guarantees "La Vecchia Signora" will treat Fulham with unswerving respect on the next stage of their European adventure.

Hodgson is still admired in Italy after his time at Inter Milan, and while the tight and tense FA Cup quarter-final with Spurs was not an example of his finest work, it still demonstrated the sound principles and pure common sense he has brought to Fulham.

When Hodgson succeeded Lawrie Sanchez at Craven Cottage in December 2007, Premier League survival was a long shot. The suggestion that Fulham might, at some future date, have to break off from FA Cup quarter-final combat with Spurs to meet Juventus in the latter stages of European competition would have been regarded as residing somewhere between fanciful and farcical.

And yet this is what Hodgson has done, drawing praise from Spurs counterpart Harry Redknapp, another member of management's older brigade, when I asked him about his achievements at Fulham.

He said: "Roy has done a great job. They went away to Shakhtar Donetsk, the holders of the Europa League, and got one of the results of the season to get through.

"They are well-organised, strong defensively and a very well-coached side. Roy has to take great credit for that and when you look at results like they got against Shakhtar you see why we won't be taking them lightly in the replay, even though we are happy with a draw."

Hodgson has been the architect of Fulham's upturn in fortunes

Hodgson's sure touch was in evidence, even during a cup encounter that lacked spark and was short on opportunities. Fulham, as Redknapp said, were meticulously prepared in defence and varied in attack. The creation of players such as Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff was mixed with a willingness to go route one and serve the transformed Bobby Zamora.

When I put it to Hodgson that to follow up an FA Cup quarter-final with Spurs by playing Juventus in Europe was an obvious indicator of his club's development, he was only too happy to agree, but with the humility that is the hallmark of his club.

He said: "I would quite happily accept a 0-0 draw against Spurs in the last eight of the FA Cup to take to Juventus in the Europa League. It is very pleasing and I often remind the players that this is what you are in the Premier League for. I tell them these are the games you want to play, and there are lots of people in the lower divisions who are very envious of you.

"We play Juventus then we play at Manchester United, then we have Juventus and Manchester City at home before we have the replay at Spurs - although we just have to accept we might not win them all."

Hodgson is happy to take the taxing programme as a sign of success, saying: "I'm not sure you can say we are victims of success by having to play all these games. Success is what you strive for and this is an indication that this team has been successful.

"We should bask in the glory because it's not every year Fulham get close to playing 60 games and lots of times we barely scrape to 40."

One of the finest examples of Hodgson's powers of renewal is the rejuvenation of striker Bobby Zamora. The days when he was a victim of terrace taunts at Craven Cottage seem an age away - and his performance was testimony to the manner in which his confidence, and indeed his whole whole game, has been reassembled by Hodgson.

Zamora would have been barely recognisable to the Spurs fans who watched him toil at White Hart Lane as he probed tirelessly, chasing all causes and emerging as the pivotal figure in Fulham's plans.

If there is a sole symbol of what Hodgson has been able to achieve at Fulham, it is Zamora. He may not have found the finishing touch to see off his former club on Saturday, but the doubters have been silenced by his development into a striker of real Premier League quality.

Zamora's form has led to talk of him potentially filling a strikers's role for England

Hodgson accepted a draw was a fair result, and one which was also welcomed by Redknapp as Spurs now assume the mantle of favourites to progress to Wembley with home advantage in the replay.

Both managers complained that the Craven Cottage pitch undermined any attempts to play constructive football. Jermain Defoe's hamstring problems, which Redknapp revealed were a result of Wembley's own poor surface when he played for England on Wednesday, forced him to pair Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko in attack. It was not a comfortable fit.

And if Hodgson deserves praise for his work with Zamora, then the same credit is due to Redknapp and his staff after a faultless display from Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes.

Craven Cottage was the scene of Redknapp's first defeat as Spurs boss in November 2008 - and Gomes was the villain when he dropped Simon Davies' cross into his own net and blundered for Andrew Johnson's second.

Redknapp described the Brazilian's errors that day as "farcical" - adding, somewhat unconvincingly, that he simply had to keep faith with Gomes. When Redknapp followed this up by insisting "confidence is king" it appeared little more than an attempt to keep Gomes' spirits up before flogging him at the first opportunity.

He did stick with Gomes, and saves of the calibre he produced from Gera's header, plus a performance of all-round assurance, justified the belief Redknapp had in the keeper.

Gomes denied Fulham a victory that would have taken them back to Wembley for the first time since 1975 - but there is no denying Craven Cottage has undergone a remarkable transformation the expert guidance of Hodgson.

Source Phil McNulty at BBCSport
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