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Fulham take the plaudits after remarkable season

May 2, 2010

Fulham's remarkable European journey is the story of the season

Thousands of people have written thousands of articles on Fulham’s 2009/10 quest past the gloss and glamour of Europe’s elite, and it was only a matter of time before someone put their own account here on the WDKF site, so here it is.

Before the start of the season, the regular Fulham fan would have settled for progression to the 2nd round of the Europa League – European Champions Cup’s younger brother – and expectations would not have exceeded that by much. A mid-table position in the Premier League was a given considering the stature of their manager and the moderate array of talent that the Fulham squad possesses. A mediocre team with a vastly experience manager and decent financial backing. That’s Fulham for you. At least, it was.

In the space of 10 months, since playing their first game of the season way back in late July away at FK Vetra of Lithuania in the Europa League 3rd round qualifier, Fulham have wriggled their way from the back of the country’s mind, right to the forefront, so much so that their wonderful story isn’t far off outshining the race for the title. The rather predictable Manchester United vs Chelsea battle for the summit seems somewhat insignificant in the face of such an unlikely story, but don’t tell United or Chelsea fans that.

‘It’s what dreams are made of’ is the old adage, and although I’m not one for clichés and soppy fairytales within Football, even I have been fixed to this truly unique conquest. As far as I’m concerned, Roy Hodgson is a miracle maker, and a manager I could see lifting any trophy around the world. Including the World Cup. Future England manager? Fabio Capello’s successor? Who knows. But if I was Trevor Brooking and co. at the Football Association, he’d be first on my shortlist of candidates.

As a fan of Liverpool, and with that a viewer of the stupendous decline of the Anfield club over the last 12 months, I’m constantly on the lookout for possible candidates to take over from Rafael Benitez at the end of this disastrous season, and with Hodgson not entirely committed to Fulham, Liverpool may be on the phone to the Cottage sooner rather than later.

Switzerland, Inter Milan (X2), Udinese, UAE, Blackburn, and Finland are just a few of the teams the 62-year old has been in charge of, and his CV doesn’t stop there. UEFA Cup winner 96/97 with Inter, Swedish Cup winner on two occasions with Malmo FF, as well as two Championship medals, a Danish Cup and League title with Copenhagen, and now a Europa League final with Fulham. It doesn’t get much more impressive than that, and although some may argue that the stature of most of the clubs he has managed isn’t very impressive, you can’t ignore a man who has so much silverware locked up in his cabinets.

His style of play is another notable achievement to add to the list. Fulham are a side who have always looked to play on the floor, but have never really achieved too much with it – perhaps like today’s Wigan Athletic. Tigana came and failed, Coleman lasted a decent time without winning anything, and Sanchez barely had time to blink before he was out. But in Hodgson, Fulham have found a man who has continued and enhanced an attractive style of football, but actually turned it into a winning formula as well, and that is priceless in football.

Some people who may not have followed Fulham all the way through this season, or even at all, may not understand the enormity of the task they’ve achieved. As if creeping past the likes of AS Roma, CSKA Sofia, and Basel in the group stage wasn’t enough, they then went on to beat competition holders Shakhtar Donestsk (3-2 ag), and Serie A giants Juventus (thanks to an unbelievable 5-4 aggregate win, having been 4-1 down after 4 minutes at the Cottage), before overcoming German sides Wolfsburg and Hamburg over the two legs. A date with Atletico Madrid is the prize, an encounter that is sure to water the mouths of numerous Fulham supporters.

Perhaps the exit of Liverpool on the same night as Fulham’s triumph has been a good thing for the Europa League. I don’t know about anybody else, but I would have made Liverpool favourites for the match, and that’s not being biased. It would have been a great shame for Fulham to go all that way and then fall at the final hurdle. But for me, Fulham have to be favourites for the final against Atletico, who’s dreadful League campaign has been forgotten thanks to 2 Cup finals, including the Copa del Rey. There’s no doubt that I’ll be rooting for Hodgson and his men on 12th May, if only to alert the attentions of the Directors at Anfield to the managerial ability of Hodgson, if they haven’t already noticed.

A 3-2 win at home to West Ham today still isn’t enough for Fulham to qualify for next season’s Europa League through the Premier Division, but should they emerge victorious in a week’s time, they’ll be competing for bigger honours alongside the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. What a season. One that this generation of Fulham fans will never ever forget.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2010 9:38 am

    Good luck Fulham! I hope you win the cup, because you’ve earned it (after that incredible game against Juve and after the semi-final comeback with Hamburg) and because I don’t like Atletico, they have so many “stars” (Aguero, Reyes) and their game isn’t impressive.

  2. May 3, 2010 4:26 pm

    Hope the Cottagers win the final as well they really deserve it for their wonderful journey in the Europa League

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