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Well what a sporting week! For those of you who need a recap, here we go:

  • Rangers claimed the Scottish Premier League from a limp Celtic.
  • Newcastle and Middlesbrough were relegated to the Championship.
  • Burnley won promotion to the Premier League.
  • Paul Casey won the BMW championship at Wentworth to rise to world number 3.
  • Floyd Mayweather Jnr. wows London with his class in the build-up to his latest fight(and victory).
  • Leinster win the Heineken Cup against Leicester in Edinburgh.
  • Brawn GP and the resurgent Jenson Button win in Monaco to increase their strangle hold on Formula 1.

We were certainly spoiled for action this week, but I want to discuss the end of another great season in football, and specifically a real achievement in these boom and bust days.

Fulham are undoubtedly one of the smaller teams in London, they have a small, historic stadium on the banks of the Thames.  Money has been tight since the boom days of Jean Tigana and Chris Coleman, so where has this club come from to finish 7th in with the billionaires of the Premier League and just how was it done?

Fulham are actually the oldest professional football team in London, originating in the 1890s. The club quickly switched to Craimagesven Cottage, where it has remained, despite the attempts of many an owner. The club has never had the highs of many of its neighbours, and indeed has had more than its fair share of dark days. The club has been close to folding more times than deserved, with the value of its location being deemed higher than its role in the community.
But in recent years the club has been rejuvenated under the stewardship of the often deservedly maligned Mohamed Al Fayed. He took over the club in the late 90’s when the club was again on the brink of obscurity, and they haven’t looked back.
Enough with the history lesson, on with current affairs. Fulham are in Europe, finished in their highest ever position in the Premier League, and have the 2008/2009 Manager of the Year.

Roy Hodgson took over the club in late December 2007, they had won 2 games in 20 attempts; he dragged the sinking club gasping and gulping for air to the safety of the shore, and survival in the Premier League.  Fueled with some remarkable results – not least the 3-2 victory away at Manchester City, Hodgson gained the adoration of the fans and plaudits from the footballing world.  Since then Roy has taken Fulham up to the heady heights of the inaugural Europa League and well into the top half of the league.

HodgsonThis is not the first success story of this “old-school” football man.  Roy is probably best know for his time at F.C Internazionale Milano and the Swiss national team.  He started his managerial helm in Sweden at Halmstads in the mid seventies, and has gone on to manage 14 clubs and countries, mainly in continental Europe.  But the turn-around he has performed in West London has to be the Jewel in the Crown.  A club spent-out on previous managers, has quietly risen through far “bigger teams” into a much coveted European place.  Shrewd in the transfer market with signings like the fragile Messrs Johnson and Bullard and the revelations Murphy, Pantsil and the exceptional Hangeland(From his previous club Viking), Hodgson has taken the club by the scruff of the neck and installed a belief in football, not long-ball.  Training techniques, sport science, priceless tactical and man-management knowledge have come in and an air of confidence and belief surrounds the Cottage. 

Whether the glamour of European football is enough to keep the star performers, and entice real quality to the banks of the Thames, will, I’m sure have a real bearing on next season.  But there is no doubt in the class of this multi-lingual, master pundit, tactician and motivator, and his ability of managing at the top level at the youthful age of 61.  On this evidence he beats the old master(Sir Alex Ferguson) and the young pretender(David Moyes) to the Manager of the Year 2008/2009.

 

CAS

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