x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hodgson proving his worth at Fulham

When Manchester United visit Craven Cottage today, it will be an awkward test for the champions who were beaten 2-0 in the corresponding fixture last season.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson will be able to check the progress of his improving side against the champions today.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson will be able to check the progress of his improving side against the champions today.

Roy Hodgson should not have too much to prove in management. He took unfashionable Switzerland to the World Cup finals in 1994 and the European Championship two years later before leading Inter Milan to the Uefa Cup final. Yet his homeland is where he has always longed to right a past wrong. It was in 1998 when his first English Premier League experience at Blackburn turned sour. A place in the Uefa Cup in his first season was quickly forgotten early in the second when Rovers went bottom of the table and he was sacked in November. It was the only time that he had endured such a fate at club level.

"It hit me very hard," he said of the disappointing episode. "I regarded it as a real blow to my professional pride." It was to be 10 years after his arrival at Ewood Park that he would be afforded the chance of redemption in the top flight of English football. And such has been his impact at Fulham since 2007 that few would begrudge him the praise that has come his way. When Manchester United visit Craven Cottage today, it will be an awkward test for the champions who were beaten 2-0 in the corresponding fixture last season.

Fulham sit ninth in the Premier League and are in the last 32 of the Europa League. The wily Hodgson has moulded a side strong on the work ethic and well-organised defensively. Such is his standing that he has been considered to lead a Great Britain team for the 2012 Olympics. At 62, he is five years younger than Sir Alex Ferguson but has 33 years of managerial experience behind him - just two less than the decorated United supremo.

Energy and enthusiasm are two qualities that Hodgson has admired in coaches like Ferguson and hoped were part of his own persona. His players are of similar ilk. The veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, Danny Murphy, Damien Duff and Andy Johnson are among those who were supposed to have enjoyed their best days before they came to west London. Not so, though. The same applied to Bobby Zamora, too. Sometimes ridiculed for his profligate finishing he has worked hard to prove critics, including his own supporters, wrong.

United will need Nemanja Vidic to have recovered from a calf problem to deal with the threat of the in-form striker. akhan@thenational.ae Fulham v Manchester United, KO 7pm, Showsports 2