Roy Hodgson to stay at Fulham despite 'bitter' defeat
Hodgson saddened by Fulham loss
Roy Hodgson insists he remains fully committed to Fulham despite the "bitter blow" of his side's loss to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final.
A penalty shoot-out looked likely until Diego Forlan's 116th-minute strike sealed a 2-1 win for the Spanish side.
And boss Hodgson, linked with a host of big clubs thanks to Fulham's success this term, said: "It's a bitter blow.
"But as far as my future goes, I have never given it a thought. I've always been committed to Fulham and still am."
Hodgson has led a remarkable turn-around in his two-and-a-half years as Cottagers manager, saving the club from relegation in his first season, leading them to an eighth-placed finish last season, and taking the club to its first European final this campaign.
In tribute to his success, he was named the League Manager's Association manager of the year this week.
And it has led to speculation linking the 62-year-old former Inter Milan, Blackburn and Finland national team manager with a move to replace Rafael Benitez at Liverpool and even as a possible successor to England coach Fabio Capello.
But speaking after the defeat in Hamburg on Wednesday, he said: "It has not even crossed my mind. I still have a contract at the club, and as far as I know here is where I shall be [next season]."
The veteran boss admitted, however, that it was hard to draw comfort from his side's remarkable European run in the immediate aftermath of their cruel extra-time defeat.
Having beaten the likes of Juventus and Wolfsburg to reach the final in Germany, Fulham fought back after Forlan's early strike through Simon Davies' volleyed equaliser and looked to be heading for penalties until the Uruguayan scored again with a shot deflected in off Brede Hangeland with four minutes of extra-time remaining.
"At the moment the players are very, very down because they thought they had a good chance of winning this," said Hodgson. "Penalties are a lottery whatever happens, but we certainly fancied our chances there.
"To concede a goal so late was a bitter blow and at the moment I suppose that's the only thought going through our heads and it will take a bit of time before the pain that we feel passes.
"Having been here and having seen the team acquit itself so well, you would've liked to think we could've taken a further, final, step.
"At this moment in time it's hard to find comfort, any joy or enthusiasm.
"I'm sure you would probably be surprised if my attitude was anything other than bitter disappointment and great sadness at seeing yet another great performance from the players go unrewarded."
Hodgson did take time to praise his team in their defence against Atletico's formidable strike pairing of Forlan and Sergio Aguero, saying: "We did very well to keep Forlan and Aguero quiet, but unfortunately not quite quiet enough.
"Their two front players were very good throughout the game but we gave them as good as we got and it looked like it was heading for penalties.
"We were looking very comfortable throughout long periods of the game and it's a real shame to get so close and miss out.
"I could not be more proud of the players. This performance in many ways sums up what we are about at Fulham. Everyone watching on the TV and here in Hamburg will realise we gave everything we had.
"We go a goal down and fight back to take it to extra-time. That shows what we are about and I think the fans will realise we've done the very best we can.
"It's certainly the best squad of players I've worked with in terms of their attitude and commitment. I have to say that no squad has ever surpassed this team in their work ethic and determination."
Davies was also left hugely disappointed at the final whistle.
"We were looking for penalties to try our luck. It's a real shame to get so close but we congratulate Atletico because they're a top side," said Davies.
"Once we get home it will seem like we've achieved something but now it's painful.
"To score in the final of a big tournament is something I'll be very proud of in years to come but now it's just very hard to lose."
Fulham fans' misery, meanwhile, was compounded by having to endure long delays on their way home from Hamburg Airport.
Supporters told of chaotic scenes at Hamburg Airport when thousands of Fulham and Atletico Madrid followers arrived for early-morning flights back to the UK and Spain, while one fan told of how 300 people were taken out to a plane, only to find it had half the number of seats.
"[Hamburg Airport doesn't] seem to have been able to cope with it. They didn't have enough staff," Dawn Dunlop told the BBC: "The whole thing has been a complete disaster."
Dozens of extra flights to and from the UK and Spain were laid on at the airport for last night's showpiece final.
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