On the 28th of December 2007 the forgotten man of English management returned to to the Premier League, and what a difference he has made.
Roy Hodgson, the twice former manager of Inter Milan, Blackburn Rovers, and the Swiss national side, took up his role as Fulham boss with his side facing a certain relegation and years of struggle trying to get back up into the top tier.
He came into Craven Cottage determined that the club would stay up and was proven right on the final day of the season when club captain Danny Murphy's goal in a 1-0 away win at Portsmouth ensured they would stay up.
They had gone into the last few games looking as if they would go down and but won three games in a row for the first time in the club's top flight history and since then Hogdson's men have continued to amaze the world of football.
On the 16th of December 2009 Fulham headed to Basel a country Hodgson knew well in all his years of management, knowing only a win would see them into the knock out stage of the Europa League.
A fantastic performance inspired by Bobby Zamora's two goals ensured their passage but bad news came in the draw a few days later when they were to face UEFA Cup holders Shakhtar Donetsk but the confidence in the Fulham camp was obvious with goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer saying: "anything's possible."
Last week they made the perfect start against the holders when Zoltan Gera put his side in front after only three minutes at the Cottage, Donetsk had not played since their final group game because of the end of season break in the Ukraine but as proven last year the break was of benefit to them as they leveled just before the break through Luiz Adriano.
Bobby Zamora fired home a wonder goal just past the hour mark to notch up what was a famous victory for the Londoners. But surely the away goal they conceded meant their task in the Ukraine was going to be too much for them.
As they made their way onto the pitch last night in what was an intimidating atmosphere as England had experienced in their recent World Cup Qualifying defeat in the autumn, Fulham knew it was the David versus Goliath tie.
They were brave and kept their heads as the home side began well and battered the Fulham defence with Schwarzer pulling off a string of great stops, but with the skill and flair of Damien Duff and Zoltan Gera Fulham knew they had the chance to get the vital away goal.
And it came ten minutes from half time when the defensive rock Brede Hangeland headed home and all of a sudden the whole of Europe took notice. Unlike with youngster Chris Smalling, who is leaving to join Manchester United in the summer, Fulham have managed to keep a hold of Hangeland. But after a performance of this magnitude a lot of clubs will be sniffing around come the opening of the window.
Although the home side equalised with 20 minutes to play Fulham hung on to what is their greatest achievement in European football, and Hodgson was quick to praise the spirit and the belief of his side:
"We put in an enormous amount of work, trained a lot and the result shows it wasn't in vain," said the 62-year-old. "I wouldn't rule out that at the end of my coaching days I will name this match as the best in my career."
At the end of last season Hodgson had come on record as saying he had the tough task of calming expectations down at the club and ensured that Premier League survival was of paramount importance, but after their late show against Birmingham City saw them move into nineth and on 37 points they have their safety assured.
They take on Sunderland in the league on Sunday, but then have a home FA Cup quarter final tie against Tottenham the following weekend and then take on Italian giants Juventus a side Hodgson knows well over two legs sandwiched with a league game against Manchester United.
The other 15 teams Liverpool aside will not have heard much about Fulham but they will have done now and do not be suprised if their fairytale run continues as they face a Juventus side in all sorts of turmoil in the next round.
Fulham have nothing to lose as for Juventus it is the opposite and once again Fulham fans can rely on a fantastic team spirit Hodgson has instilled at Craven Cottage to ensure they can run the Italians all the way.
As for the rest of the season they have a genuine chance of winning the FA Cup and will hold no fears in the Europa League as has been proved. And as for the league, as said earlier, with survival an almost certainty they can play with no pressure as they find themselves only eight points of Europa league qualification and nine off the top four.
Hodgson is one of the nicest men in world football and is a genuine footballing man and he is dying breed in our game today with managers now being media driven and money mad. Sir Alex Ferguson regards him as one of his closest friends in management and a top boss and who is argue with that?
Let's all sit back and enjoy how he gets the best out of side week after week because it is a dying art in this modern football world.
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