Club Focus – Fulham – Mackie, sign him up

While some peoples’ minds were wandering around the world watching international football, Fulham fans were being swamped with news regarding their manager, Roy Hodgson’s, contract.

After he reportedly recently turned down chances to return to international management with both Sweden and Norway, Hodgson has been the subject of a will he or won’t he debate with his current employers. This writer has seen claims from some corners of the football media that suggest the former Blackburn boss is looking for one final Premier League swansong with a bigger club – with Liverpool his best suitors. The fact is if there is one club Mr Hodgson is most suited for, it is the west Londoners.

If Fulham were a woman, then Hodgson would be her soulmate. Both are quiet, unassuming, and looking for a life away from the spotlights. That is not to say he lacks ambition – which is matched by his Chairman, Mohamed Al-Fayed – but a club such as Fulham does not have the added pressure of high expectation, as Liverpool so spectacularly does. Speculation over where Hodgson’s future lies should be, in this writer’s opinion, taken very lightly, as where better place is there for a journeyman manager to retire than Craven Cottage?

“I am not averse to the idea of a longer contract,” is the quote that has prompted the press to declare the manager is dissatisfied with life at the Cottage, but that is just his manner. When was the last time the ex-Inter Coach was excited or flustered about a situation? And nor should Whites fans be flustered. The idea that Al-Fayed and his chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh, have not got plans to extend Hodgson’s stay is laughable, and it is simply down to the fact that at Fulham, contracts tend to do exactly what it says on the tin, and refreshingly so.

Hodgson himself has long stressed the club’s contract policy – he told Jimmy Bullard not to expect a new deal with over a year remaining on his then current contract, and has mentioned the procedure since, regarding Brede Hangeland’s new deal, which is still in the negotiation stage. The 62-year-old has until the end of the season at least, and there is no evidence that his tenure will not be extended – certainly neither party, or the fans, has expressed an opposite desire. Hodgson owes it to himself, and the club owes it to him, to become Fulham’s most successful ever manager – a claim that cannot be made with such a short reign.

Already, Hodgson has steered his troops to seventh in the Premier League in his first full season, after being integral to the ‘great escape’ which was achieved just a year prior. That achievement, if continued into a consistent top-half finish, would certainly put the affable Londoner into the Fulham hall-of-fame, if not top of the pile. When this accomplishment is added to the fact he joined after a slow-but-sure decline in both the talent and resources at the club – and after a manager who single-handedly almost destroyed any progress made in Al-Fayed’s decade at the club – it truly makes Hodgson’s man-management and budget-handling abilities stand out. Previous managers’ consistent struggling with such players as Edwin van der Sar, Louis Saha and Steed Malbranque, combined with Hodson’s success with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Dickson Etuhu and John Pantsil makes this writer certain a new contract is forthcoming – when the time is right for everyone, of course.

Never – in recent memory at least – have so many players come out praising a Fulham manager’s importance to the team. That so many have done in Hodgson’s tenure is further testament to the respect the manager has earned. The latest player to do just that is winger Clint Dempsey, who has urged the powers that be to hang on to his boss: “I enjoy playing for him and if things are working, as they are, you don’t want them to change, but these are discussions for people higher up in the club.”

So the fans want it, the players want it, and the manager himself wants it – and, presumably, so do Al-Fayed and Mackintosh. Let’s face it, he has more than earned it, and Fulham fans would like nothing more than to kick the Premier League back off with a win, and a long-term deal for their perfect partner Hodgson. It took Sir Alex Ferguson too long to realise the importance of Carlos Tevez so, in the words of the Manchester United fans on that particular debacle, Fergie Mackie, sign him up.”

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