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Mark Hughes aims to equal Fulham record

last updated Sunday 22nd May 2011, 7:22 AM
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
Fulham manager Mark Hughes
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Fulham manager Mark Hughes has hailed his players as Fulham go into Sunday's clash against Arsenal with a chance of finishing seventh in the top flight.

Improved form in the second half of the season has seen the Cottagers rise to eighth in the table, three points behind seventh-placed Everton.

If Fulham beat the Gunners and the Toffees lose to Chelsea, they will equal their best-ever top-flight finish.

While Hughes has regularly aired his belief that the Cottagers are a top-10 side, even he admits he has been surprised by his squad's achievements.

"We have had a massive turnaround in the second half of the season and I always anticipated we would," he said.

"We knew that key personnel would return like Bobby (Zamora) and Andy Johnson, who had missed a lot of games and was only just getting back to full fitness.

"We have had a massive turnaround in the second half of the season and I always anticipated we would."

Mark Hughes
"We always said we would be strong in the second half but probably we even exceed our expectations in the second half.

"We have been really strong and really enjoyed it. We have played some great football, got plenty of points and done really well."

Asked whether he takes any personal pride after the turnaround, he added: "I think so. Obviously I am the figurehead of the club but it is more about the recognition my staff get.

"At times we are a little but under the radar and we just go about our business quite quietly.

"It is only towards the end of the season when people think: 'Oh, goodness me, Fulham have actually done quite well this year'.

"It is not about personal recognition, I've had plenty of that in my career.

"It is about making sure that the staff get the recognition they deserve because without them I can't do my job."

Hughes was also quick to laud his players' attitude - an attribute that some have suggested is lacking at Sunday's opponents Arsenal.

The Gunners head into the final match of the season on the back of a run that has seen them win just twice in their past 12 matches.

"I am a little but surprised by the way they have tailed off," said Hughes. "At one point they could have won four trophies.

"I think it has been mentioned in the media this week that the Carling Cup final affected them markedly and they haven't seemed to recover from that for whatever reason.

"But they have still got the potential to create chances and win Premier League games.

"They are an outstanding team on their day. I know recent results have not gone as they would like but within that run they still had the ability to beat Manchester United.

"That tells you that they are a very good team and if they are focused and the intensity of their play is there then they are very difficult to overcome."

Much of the blame for Arsenal's poor form has been apportioned to the club's inability to bring in a top quality goalkeeper during the summer.

Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was targeted to shore up the position but a move to the Emirates Stadium never came to fruition.

Asked whether Hughes was surprised Arsenal did not come back with a better bid, Hughes said: "Well they could probably have not worked any harder [to get him] but the intention was to keep Mark and that is what happened.

"Their situation in regards to their goalkeeper is not something that really interests me now because the focus they had on my keeper has gone away now because we protected our position.

"That is important and was important for Mark at the time, that we showed the commitment that we had as a club and myself as the manager and we are delighted with that.

"It only in the past few years that they haven't won trophies and as a consequence more people question the decisions that are made or aren't made and that is what Arsene (Wenger) is facing at the moment."























Source SkySports
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