ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 04/30/2012

Need a manager for the national team? Call Fulham. We've supplied two in the modern era. And indeed three if you go further back to include Sir Bobby Robson.

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Hodgson's appointment to the England job seems to have put the media into a tizz. Even our more cerebral broadsheet writers can't discern the wheat from the chaff. Or should that be 'chav?' It seems a simple black and white issue to me. The FA got it right for once. David Bernstein hasn't been making many headlines since he took on the top job, and that's just how it should be. As I expounded a week ago on this site, while swimming against a tide of public and press opinion, the right man for England right now is our Roy.

Considering some of the clowns we've had at headquarters down the years, Palios and Sven both dropping their pants for the same office clerk, the rough diamond from the TV industry that was 'bruiser' Barwick, and far too many unproductive years of the self-serving David Davies, Bernstein's tight little gang of four got it just right. No paper I've see to date's been brave enough to say it, but I suspect the 'whiff of Southwark' lingered in their nostrils long enough for the FA's selection committee to decide 'Arry was perhaps not quite what team England needed just now.

Roy drove down from the Hawthorns Monday to discuss terms once the FA had shown their hand, in what was being widely interpreted as a safe and unimaginative appointment. In the early running the hacks made much of Roy's short unhappy time at Liverpool, his lack of major trophies, his age, his predilection for setting sides up to 'park the bus' in front of goal for away matches. We Fulham fans don't need to be told of Roy's conservative streak when it comes to tactics. And while Hodgson parlayed over the contract terms, journos queued up to offer Redknapp their sympathy, and roundly question if Roy's stature was indeed the best the FA could come up with.

There was a palpable sniff suggesting some senior England pros might not respond to playing under the new national coach. Especially when we heard all the reports of incessant coaching sessions, morning and afternoon, the mind-numbing drills, repetition and obssessive attention to tactics and detail. Yes, it was easy to infer 'Arry's game would be so much more fun and attractive for the media circus. "Well I told the lads, it's a crunch game for sure to get out of the group, no question. Azerbaijan aint no mugs. But we'd worked 'ard all week. The boys deserved to 'ave a few beers an' I've always felt a card school's a good way to take your mind off the pressure."

Day two of the drama saw journos get down to some digging, and you sensed the mood changing by the hour. Sources from Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Italy and the English clubs where Hodgson has managed queued up to sing Hodgson's praises. It put me in mind of something George Weah once told me, when I congratulated him on being the first African to be voted World Footballer of the Year. "I owe everything to Arsene, he should get the trophy not me. When I arrived in Monaco he treated me like a son. He put me up in his place, then spent hours with me on the training pitch, after all the other players had left. He coached me continually, when he should have been doing his paper work, he told me constantly I had a great talent and he would bring it out of me. He never stopped coaching me."

By the end of Tuesday Hodgson had made all the right noises at his first press conference, there had been much revisionist thinking at editorial level, and now it seems to me the tide is flowing the other way. Until of course we suffer our first setback on the field.
Hodgson's got the top job in English football for four years. Few expect us to shake any trees at the Euros, so already Roy's got a period of grace, and his window for intense scrutiny will focus more on the World Cup 2014. This is where he will be judged. For now Roy can fly somewhat below the radar, just as he did with the Swiss team in the mid-90's, and that might just see expectations reduced to a sensible level, and, who knows, England may even surprise us. What we do know is the new man will handle the job with integrity, a worldly vision that no other home grown candidate could match, a matchless work ethic and attention to detail.

Can he motivate the big names? That would be my one caveat. Our man's no pussycat, but confrontation is not his style. His 191 day tenure at Liverpool saw no party emerge with credit from the debacle. The club was in decline, results under Dalgleish only confirming the deeper malaise at Anfield. A change of owners, a long record of poor signings (by Roy too - £4 mill to his old club for Konchesky did not go down well among the faithful) and long term injuries to big players. Of course, with Kenny hovering in the shadows, I don't think the players last year turned up for Roy, nor probably did they warm to his methods.

But if we are to judge any individual on what he creates with the tools at his disposal, Roy's credentials cannot be called into question. He pulled a very poor Fulham side back from the brink of relegation with a relatively modest transfer budget, and in two years had this 'little' Thameside club 7th in the league and standing up to Atletico Madrid in a massive European final. What he did with Fulham has now been repeated at West Brom. He stabilised them last term, they beat the drop, and leaves them comfortably mid-table and set to finish as the Midlands top side. The one aspect of Roy's time with us, we used to say how every single player at the club seemed to improve under his coaching. The one big 'character' he couldn't handle was offloaded - for good money - and where is he now?

My first sight of Roy came in the 1997 Champions League. Juventus played Rosenborg in Turin. At the Stadio della Alpi I had arrived early and wandered from the press room around the impressive reception area pre kick-off. There I saw Roy embrace Arrigo Sacchi (AC Milan and Italian national coach) and Marcello Lippi as the three held forth in rapid Italian with all the elan and gestures of footballing grandees. Trust me, having this man move through the international corridors of football with the Three Lions on his immaculate blazer and his language skills will be a bigger antidote to England's shabby downward spiral of recent years than the FA have yet to realise themselves.

As to footballing matters closer to home - this is supposed to be a Fulham blog after all! The club fulfilled a fixture last Saturday. The team played was Everton. You may find the result in the record books.

As to our super club's FOURTH away win of the season, thank heavens for finally ending the Anfield bogey at last! Who would have believed it. Well done to the side for showing such a positive response, only a pity we did not add to our tally. Neutrals may think it was a slightly hollow victory with Dalgleish having his mind on the Cup Final, but there were still plenty of big names on the park and the combined cost of the men in red was way in excess of our own eleven. But boy, did we make Liverpool look ordinary! Hands up all those who said this was the one of the three away trips they wanted the most. A big shout out to the 300 odd Whites fans who made the effort and can now say with pride, "I was there when Fulham FINALLY won at Anfield."

Here's to three more points from our final home game v Sunderland and what I hope will be a 10th home win at the Cottage in a remarkable season of ups and downs. Well, that's what following Fulham is all about...they never fail to surprise us. COYW!!!

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Posted by fraught_with_peril on 05/03/2012

Fantastic column, Phil. You've written a lot of great ones, and today's effort is right up there with the best.

Some irony, I think, in Roy's having been appointed to the England job a few hours before a Liverpool-Fulham fixture. I wish ol' Woy the best and will be an avid (non-native) England supporter with him at the helm.

Solid win at Anfield. Let's close strong. Will Sunday's post-match lap of honour offer clues as to who is moving on, either of their volition or the Club's volition? And, following that, let's not forget that a result at WHL will lock up the London league for us.

COYW !!!

Posted by Vital_Teddy_KGB on 05/03/2012

First, absolutely nothing but respect for Sir Roy! I hope they give him enough time to succeed.

Second, unsightly though it may have been, you must appreciate the win at Anfield. My single (and ever-present) criticism of Jol this season has been this Senderos-over-Hughes stupidity he seems unwilling to relinquish. I think this week's Merseyside adventure provides proper vindication. Start Senderos - three 1st half goals at Everton. Start Hughes - cleansheet at Liverpool. 'Nuff said!

Posted by Rob on 05/03/2012

Congrats to the FA on making a very smart choice to hire Roy. It is usually a smart decision to go in the opposite direction of the press.

Congrats to the team on their victory at Anfield. It's always nice to get another monkey off the back. I hate to pile on, but how much more of a sample size does Jol need in the Senderos/Hughes decision?

Anyone eager to see Ruiz replace some combination of Frei and Kacaniklic next season? Not I.

Let's finish the season strong and move ahead of Liverpool.

Posted by Drago on 05/03/2012

Like Vital_Teddy, I hope the Liverpool win finally ends the Senderos over Hughes madness. Now, if Jol sticks to form, he'll go back to Senderos in the last two games.

As for Roy, the two guys he needs to avoid like the plague are Gerrard and Lampard. He shouldn't even name them to the team. Scott Walker, Ashley Cole, Joleon Lescott -- these are the solid pros that he can build around, just as he did with Hangeland and Hughes.

Posted by Nate on 05/04/2012

Agree with you Drago, but my best is that Roy gives the "old guard" a sending off with the Euros. He includes Lampard, Gerrard, (even Terry!) in the team, gives them one last major tournament. With two weeks to prepare, no one will seriously criticize him for including them, and it shows good faith to the established members of the England squad.

Then, for the World Cup, (and with a healthy Wilshere, among others) he'll embrace the younger players and build a squad that can make a run.

Alas, what do I know. I'm just shocked the FA made such a level-headed and smart decision. They say Roy is a brilliant tactical manager that can lift up average teams...well, in the past 30 years, no offense, is the England team really more than average/good on the world stage?

Posted by Jessica on 05/04/2012

First off, best wishes to Roy. I was shocked to learn that no England manager prior to Roy had any international experience prior to being named. That seemed crazy to me. And I agree- if he can get the players on his side and to buy in to his philosophy, he will be just fine. We all know the "professionals" at Anfield just flat out quit playing for him to get him out. Disgraceful if you ask me. I will be eternally grateful for the work and legacy he left at Fulham. It's against my nature to root for the Three Lions, but I will do my best in 2014...unless they wind up in my group again.

Luckily my cable went out during the Everton match, so I did not have to waste two hours of my life on that mess. Anfield was another story. I feel the US viewers were cheated a bit, because Macca only spoke of his obvious disappointment in Liverpool and didn't really mention all the good thing Fulham did to make them look ordinary. Hughes and Hangeland forever!!!


Posted by Gene on 05/07/2012

I dont care who was on the field for Liverpool it was a sweet win. Thankfully we were at the bar watching so I didnt have to listen to ESPN downplay our win. Not an England fan but they definitely made the right choice with Roy. He is a proven winner oustide of the mess at the Pool but thats more on the players quitting than him. Hope he is successful there to shut up the press. Hopefully Fulham can close the season with another win and go out on a high note. Anyone else realize this team has more points than last year under the great Mark Hughes?...yet according to him the team wouldnt do any is to also hoping QPR gets relegated this weekend..Gonna take some luck there

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