Football: Arsenal provide example for Hodgson revival

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The Independent Online
THE Blackburn Rovers manager, Roy Hodgson, still has not given up hope of finishing as runners-up in the Premiership and claiming the second Champions' League place despite seeing his charges take just four points from their last 18 matches.

Displaying the same reluctance to throw in the towel as tonight's relegation- haunted opponents Barnsley, Hodgson insists that there are points aplenty to be garnered from their remaining nine games - including home matches against Manchester United and Arsenal.

Rovers have not played since their 1-0 defeat at Everton on 14 March and Hodgson claims they are refreshed after the break. "We still have to play both Manchester United and Arsenal at home and until those games have taken place I believe I have every right to live in hope," he said.

"Our realistic goal at the start of the season when I first came here was to get a Uefa Cup place. That would be some achievement, but I am not prepared to write us off in terms of doing even better than that.

"We've had a long break; it's a bit like starting a new season but we now have nine very important games, starting against Barnsley.

"Football is very unpredictable, you only have to take a look at what's happened with Arsenal. When we beat them 3-1 [at Highbury] before Christmas people were talking of Arsenal as a club with massive problems. People said they stood no chance of winning anything and on that particular afternoon Ian Wright was in trouble due to the anger and discontent of their supporters.

"It just goes to show how things can change as now they are being talked about as potential champions."

Rovers welcome back the Scotland striker Kevin Gallacher after suspension and a leg injury, but Damien Duff is doubtful with throat ulcers. Duff, who won his first full cap for the Republic of Ireland last week, will have a fitness check.

Hodgson hopes Duff will come through and he is likely to partner Gallacher alongside Chris Sutton, probably at the expense of the Swedish international Martin Dahlin.

Meanwhile, the Wimbledon manager, Joe Kinnear, believes his side need six points from their remaining nine games to secure Premiership survival, and he is ready to claim three when they play host to Newcastle tonight.

Kinnear said: "We know what we have got to do. Last season Sunderland were relegated on 40 points. Three more points would give us 38 and one more win would make it 41, so it is a big week for us with Bolton coming up next Saturday.

"Most of the sides in and around us in the table had results which went for us on Saturday with Everton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace getting beaten so it was not too bad for us, despite our defeat at Manchester United."

Kinnear added: "As for the opposition I don't really look into what is happening at other clubs although Newcastle have pounds 67m worth of talent and it is going to be a tough game for us."