x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Earning an admiring glance

Neither Roy Hodgson or Harry Redknapp receive the merit they deserve for their achievements.

Roy Hodgson is enjoying a much more rewarding stint in English football nowadays.
Roy Hodgson is enjoying a much more rewarding stint in English football nowadays.

Recognition can take time, as Roy Hodgson and Harry Redknapp can testify. The reward for either the Fulham or the Tottenham manager today will be a place in the FA Cup semi-finals. If the journey from either Craven Cottage or White Hart Lane to Wembley should not be a lengthy one, two Londoners have taken a circuitous route. A 63-year-old and a 62-year-old, born within six months of each other in 1947, have more than six decades in coaching and management between them. Achievements abounded, but appreciation can be elusive, particularly close to home.

For Redknapp, it belatedly arrived in the FA Cup two years ago. A career that began with a 9-0 defeat at Bournemouth in 1982 peaked when Portsmouth beat Cardiff at Wembley in 2008. His first major trophy now seems a tainted triumph: paid for on the never-never, it was a team that ultimately Portsmouth could not afford. With respect to West Ham and Portsmouth, Redknapp had been a manager for more than a quarter of a century before a first genuinely big club appointed him. Eight-time winners of the FA Cup, Tottenham's pedigree in the competition predates Redknapp's.

Then there is Hodgson, whose path has taken him the 11 miles from his native Croydon to Fulham via seven other countries. He was valued rather more in most than in England: a brief stint at Bristol City concluded unhappily in 1982, while 17 months at Blackburn ended in 1998 with Rovers in the relegation zone. The third act of his managerial life in England has been much the best: saving Fulham from relegation in improbable fashion, taking the club to their highest ever league finish (7th) and overseeing arguably a still better campaign this year.

In an injury-ravaged year, ninth place in the Premier League is more than respectable while Fulham's FA Cup run pales into insignificance compared to their European exploits. Three lower-division sides have been beaten in the FA Cup, but eliminating a hugely accomplished Shakhtar Donetsk side from the Europa League sets up a tie with Juventus on Thursday which Fulham are describing as perhaps the biggest in their history. A most cosmopolitan coach is admired at home and abroad.

His imprint is all over his team. The defence and the midfield are superbly well-drilled, a narrow back four restricting space for opponents. Hodgson has overseen Bobby Zamora's transformation from selfless target man to regular scorer, Danny Murphy's conversion to efficient midfield anchorman and the left-footed Damien Duff's revitalisation as a right winger. He unearthed Chris Smalling, playing for non-league Maidstone, and has agreed to sell him to Manchester United for £10 million (Dh55.2m).

Redknapp may not micro-manage like Hodgson; he is less of a tactician and more of a man-manager. More prone to wit and wisecracks, he can motivate. The revival of Roman Pavlyuchenko, scorer of six goals in his last four games, could compensate if a hamstring problem rules out Jermain Defoe. "Pav's in great form," said Redknapp. So is Peter Crouch, scorer of a brace for England on Wednesday. "It was great to see Crouchy come and score his goals," added his manager. "Wherever he has plays, he has always done well. He brings something very different to the team."

"We have got a difficult game at Fulham," said Crouch, an FA Cup winner with Liverpool in 2006. "We have got to try and make sure we get through that and we have got a real chance of going all the way in the FA Cup. "This club deserves to get to an FA Cup final. It's been a while and I've been lucky enough to win it. It's a fantastic feeling and hopefully I can do it again with Tottenham." Their task is tougher because Redknapp has a depleted midfield, where the absentees include the English quartet of Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon and David Bentley.

Two emerging players, Andros Townsend and Jake Livermore, could be involved. "It's quite easy to pick the team because we've got about 12 fit players," said Redknapp. With four of the Premier League's top six already eliminated, the FA Cup presents an opportunity for Spurs. "We are also in a fight for fourth place, that's going to the right to the wire," added Crouch. "It's exciting times." sports@thenational.ae