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Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 15:24 UK

Roy Hodgson's redemption at Fulham

Roy Hodgson
This season, Hodgson has led Fulham to their first European final

By Phil Dawkes

Roy Hodgson is finally getting the credit he deserves in this country. The 62-year-old has forged a managerial career out of transforming the average and underachieving into the extraordinary.

In a coaching path that has taken him from Sweden to the likes of Switzerland, Italy and Dubai, before landing him in his current residence in west London, Hodgson has collected prizes and plaudits in equal measure.

Why then has it taken until now, following his remarkable achievements this season, for those in his native country to fully recognise the quality that the rest of Europe has long since acknowledged?

On Monday, Hodgson was voted manager of the year by the League Managers Association in recognition of his sterling work at Craven Cottage, the crowning glory of which is his leading of the unfancied Fulham to the final of the Europa League, where they will face Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

You could write a book about what it is that makes Roy special. It's all about the way he works with the team and our organisation

Brede Hangeland

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who knows a thing or two about managerial success, describes what Hodgson has achieved this season as "miraculous".

It is all a long way from the man who wondered where his career was going during a two-year spell as manager of the United Arab Emirates national side following a nomadic managerial tour of Italy, Switzerland and Denmark in the aftermath of his sacking by Blackburn in 1998 - the failed reign that until recently characterised him in this country.

The current Fulham squad speak in reverential terms of the man who swept into Craven Cottage in December 2007 with the side mired in the relegation zone and kept them in the Premier League on goal difference thanks largely to three successive end-of-season victories.

"He's the main reason we've come from battling relegation two-and-a-half years ago to now playing in the Europa League final. It's a fairytale for this club and it's mostly down to him," says defender Brede Hangeland.

But this is not the only time that Hodgson has turned water into wine during his illustrious career.

Halmstads (1976-80)
Bristol City (1980-82)
Örebro (1983-1985)
Malmo (1985-1989)
Neuchâtel Xamax (1990-92)
Switzerland (1992-95)
Inter Milan (1995-97)
Blackburn Rovers (1997-98)
Inter Milan (1999)
Grasshoppers (1999-2000)
Copenhagen (2000-01)
Udinese (2001)
United Arab Emirates (2002-04)
Viking (2004-05)
Finland (2006-07)
Fulham (2007-Present)

As a mere 28-year-old, Hodgson transformed Swedish side Halmstads from relegation candidates to league champions in his first season as coach in 1976, and during the next four years, along with his friend and fellow Englishman Bob Houghton, transformed the Swedish game.

"It was a big revolution in the way of thinking about and playing football in Sweden," says former journalist Hakan Malmstrom.

"Afterwards came (former England manager) Sven Goran Eriksson and the former Sweden coach Lars Lagerback, who are both pupils of Roy and Bob.

"Halmstads had never been champions before. Roy was there four or five years and they were champions twice thanks to his way of playing and coaching. Halmstads is quite a small town club so it was an amazing achievement."

He sealed his legend in Sweden through an amazing five-year period at Malmo, during which they finished top of the league every season.

"It has never happened before and it will probably never happen again," says Malmstrom.

"The big Malmo fans call one section in the new stadium 'Roy's Corner' and there is a big picture of him above them. That shows how popular he still is here."

It is a similar story in Switzerland, whose national team he managed from 1992 to 1995, where his work transformed an apathetic 3,000 strong crowd for his first game in charge into a passionate support who took to the streets during the 1994 World Cup, the country's first major tournament in 28 years.

It is temptingly romantic to believe that Hodgson has unearthed some sort of football alchemy, but in reality the key to his success is simple - he is hands-on, disciplined and thorough.

"We're very organised and everybody knows what to expect from each other," says Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey. "We go over tapes - we know what we're trying to do and we know what works.


"That brings confidence into the side and an understanding not only among the players but also among the coaching staff. It's been a good recipe."

Midfielder Zoltan Gera adds: "We do the same thing in every training session and sometimes it gets boring but we know it's working so I'm happy to do it.

"When the training starts sometimes you just feel like 'I don't want to do this' but you do it because you are a professional and you see it's working.

"Put it this way, when I wake up in the middle of the night I know what I need to do in the game, I know everything about how we play.

"If we play against Accrington Stanley he will prepare us the same as if we play Juventus. Every single game is important and the preparation has always been first-class."

Hangeland, who played under Hodgson at Norwegian club Viking before the pair were reunited at Craven Cottage, feels it is to Hodgson's credit he remains so loyal to this approach.

"I worked with him in Norway and got to know him well," says Hangeland. "And he's doing the same stuff here as he was doing back then.

"I remember I had a few of my team-mates from Norway come to watch a training session and they said to me straight after: "You do exactly the same as we did in Norway." That proves to me he really believes in his football philosophy and sticks to his plan. It has paid off."

Hodgson is typically humble about the role he has played in his own success, particularly in regard to his ability to inspire largely unfancied teams to unexpected heights.

"People don't watch football for the manager, they watch it for the players," he says.

Roy Hodgson
Hodgson had a largely unsuccessful spell as Blackburn boss in the mid-90s

"We prepare, orchestrate and direct but in the end it's not the concert director who plays the violin. It's the people themselves.

"A good director can help them by leading them the right way and getting their talent to the fore but coaches should never take credit for individual player performances. It is the players who have to take credit."

Hodgson is equally modest when it comes to the trajectory of his career, which has seen him manage only one truly big club, Inter Milan, and twice be considered but overlooked for the England job.

"My fault in the past has always been that I can't bear not working so every time I leave a job I've got a tremendous tendency - and it's probably not always been intelligent of me - to jump at the first job that comes my way that sounds half decent and interesting, without thinking how does this affect my position on the ladder," he admits.

"As a coach you should always be looking to take a step up but I haven't done that, I've gone sideways, backwards and upwards."

Now that England has finally woken up to Hodgson's world-class ability, you suspect the only way is up.

Additional reporting by David Ornstein.

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see also
Fulham's road to the final
11 May 10 |  Fulham
Hodgson voted manager of the year
10 May 10 |  Fulham
Fulham primed for glory - Hodgson
12 May 10 |  Europe
Hodgson eyes glory after defeat
09 May 10 |  Premier League
Hodgson eyes future big club job
08 May 10 |  Fulham
Hodgson tipped for manager award
30 Apr 10 |  Fulham
Hodgson hails historic Fulham win
30 Apr 10 |  Fulham
Hodgson will stay, says Al Fayed
29 Apr 10 |  Fulham
Fulham 2-1 Hamburg (agg 2-1)
28 Apr 10 |  Europe
Wolfsburg 0-1 Fulham (agg 1-3)
08 Apr 10 |  Europe
Fulham 4-1 Juventus (agg 5-4)
18 Mar 10 |  Europe
Portsmouth 0-1 Fulham
11 May 08 |  Premier League
Fulham appoint Hodgson as manager
28 Dec 07 |  Fulham
Hodgson coy over England vacancy
29 Nov 07 |  Internationals
Hodgson raises Finland Euro hopes
11 Sep 06 |  World Football

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