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Roy Hodgson, left, the Liverpool manager, has won just one of his last 27 matches on the road, an ominous sign ahead of his teamís visit to his former side Fulham tonight.
Roy Hodgson, left, the Liverpool manager, has won just one of his last 27 matches on the road, an ominous sign ahead of his teamís visit to his former side Fulham tonight.

Murphy: Hodgson is one of the best

Steven Gerrard may return to face Fulham today, as Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, makes his return to Craven Cottage since switching clubs.

Roy Hodgson confronts his past tonight. It may seem a more forgiving environment, a place where he was a popular overachiever. It was a time when expectations and scrutiny were lesser, appreciation greater and his reputation higher. It was when he was Fulham manager.

Two-and-a-half heady years at Craven Cottage incorporated a dramatic escape from relegation, the highest Premier League finish in Fulham's history and an appearance in the Europa League final.

Half a season at Anfield has seen a stumble around mid-table that has prompted John Henry, the new owner, to describe the results this season as "unacceptable".

His old club, meanwhile, are perched precariously above the relegation zone after an underwhelming start to Mark Hughes's reign. If something unites Liverpool and Fulham, it might be a shared sense among supporters that they wish Hodgson was still on the banks of the Thames.

It is a move that, like Paul Konchesky's similar switch from Craven Cottage to Anfield, has benefited no one so far. Hodgson, understandably, believes he merits time.

He can point to an inauspicious first few months at Fulham before the three victories that salvaged their Premier League status in 2008 and kick-started a time of unprecedented success for the club.

"It was a fantastic two-and-a-half years for me there," said the 63-year-old. "It will bring back very good memories.

"The club were good to me, the players were excellent and they were a joy to work with. It was a wrench to leave them but a job like Liverpool doesn't come along every day.

"Unfortunately, when you leave a club and you play against them, there is only one thought in your mind. We need to win."

They will be the favourites. One element of their manager's record in the capital normally serves to depress Liverpool. Today it should encourage them. Their wait for an away win stretches back 26 league games (that Hodgson's personal record on his travels is of one victory in 27 attempts highlights Liverpool's dismal run on the road) while they visit a club whose home form is bettered only by Manchester United and Chelsea.

The tonic for Liverpool today should be provided by the return of their captain. Steven Gerrard has spent a month on the sidelines after damaging his hamstring on international duty.

But, while Hodgson was reluctant to suggest he will start, the midfielder should be involved.

The opposing captain is another common denominator between the two clubs and an advocate of Hodgson's. "If I was a betting man, I would guarantee they are going to finish in the top four," said Danny Murphy, Fulham's former Liverpool midfielder.

"The club is in a bit of a predicament, but you couldn't ask for a more humble gentleman to deal with that.

"I didn't want to see him go, but football success generally means that people move on. The great thing for him was that he got to manage one of the great teams in Europe and Liverpool got one of the best coaches around.

"I hear positive sounds coming out of the club about him. The people up there don't suffer fools."

Fulham are without a goal at Anfield since 2006 and arrive minus two of their premier strikers, with Moussa Dembele joining the long-term absentee Bobby Zamora on the sidelines.

Hodgson, meanwhile, was able to rest his regulars for Wednesday's Europa League stalemate against Utrecht and is likely to make 10 changes.

The reunion may serve as a reminder of Hodgson's credentials to his doubters on Merseyside but, as Gerard Houllier's recent return to Anfield with new team Aston Villa shows, this is not the time to be sentimental.

sports@thenational.ae

9.30pm, Abu Dhabi Sports 3

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