Fulham managed to win their first game in three months yesterday when they beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Craven Cottage. This was the team’s first victory under Roy Hodgson who joined them on 30th December last year.
Roy Hodgson is one of the most experienced coaches in World football, but can he keep Fulham in the premier league, or has he taken on an impossible job?
The sixty year old manager had an underwhelming playing career with Crystal Palace, Tonbridge, Gravesend and Northfleet and Maidstone United. There was nothing in his career as a player that suggested he would go on to manage at a high level, although he did fullfil the role of player/coach at Maidstone.
In 1976 Hodgson took over as manager at Swedish club Halmstads BK. He stayed there for five years winning two Swedish championships. He came back to England for a brief spell in charge of Bristol City but quickly returned to Sweden where he managed Orebro SK and Malmo FF who he took to five consecutive Swedish championship titles and two Swedish cups.
In 1990 Hodgson moved to Switzerland where he managed Neuchatel before taking over as Swiss national team boss in 1992. He led Switzerland to both the World Cup in 1994 and the European championships in 1996. His achievements with Switzerland alerted Italian giants Inter who employed him as their manager for two years, during which time Hodgson took them to a UEFA Cup final.
On leaving Inter, Hodgson made his first managerial foray into the Premier League in England. He took over at Blackburn where in his first season he achieved a UEFA cup qualifying place, but was sacked early in his second season as results started to go badly.
Since leaving Blackburn in 1998 Hodgson has managed Inter again, Grasshoppers in Switzerland, FC Copenhagen in Denmark with whom he won the Danish championship, Udinese in Italy, The United Arab Emirates who he took to fifth place in the Gulf Cup, Viking FK in Denmark and the Finland national side. On failing to gain qualification for Finland to the 2008 European championships, he left the role and took on an Ambassadorial position with Inter, before joining Fulham on 30th December 2007.
It can be seen that Roy Hodgson has had a quite remarkable managerial career in which he has also been on the UEFA technical study group at various European Championships, and the FIFA technical study group at the 2006 World Cup. He has managed 12 club sides in 6 different countries, and 3 different national sides. Of all of these roles. has anyone of them been more difficult than his current task of saving Fulham from slipping into the Championship?
Lawrie Sanchez had been the previous incumbent at Fulham, and although he did well to avoid relegation last season, the results at the beginning of this season were disastrous. Sanchez had surrounded himself at Fulham with players he knew from his time as manager of Northern Ireland, but these players did not seem to have the necessary quality required for Premier League survival.
Hodgson has come in and his first few results were no better, but he has now achieved a goalless draw at Bolton, and yesterday’s excellent win at home against Villa. Hodgson has made some questionable signings of his own in the transfer window, 36 year old unfit looking Jari Litmanen, Tottenham reject Paul Stalteri and Norwegian centre half Brede Hangeland. None of these players seem likely to fire Fulham to safety.
However two things happened yesterday that can give Hodgson hope. Brian McBride came on from the bench after nearly six months out of the game. Fulham have missed his goals, and having him back is a huge bonus. The other thing that happened was Jimmy Bullard. This likeable, cheerful, midfielder has missed sixteen months of football, but appeared yesterday to be back somewhere near his best. He has a remarkable ‘engine’ and is always available and looking for the ball. He can see a pass, deliver a cross, and strike a sweet dead ball. Fabio Capello will be watching him if he continues in this form.
To answer my own question, I believe that with McBride and Bullard back in the side, Roy Hodgson can use all of his experience to guide Fulham to safety this season. Just.