Hodgson's epic campaign ends, but his Fulham journey looks far from over
After agonising final defeat, the manager dismisses links to top European jobs and commits his future to west London club
Roy Hodgson said last night that he intended to stay at Fulham despite the interest in him from across Europe after his side dramatically lost the Europa League final 2-1 to Atletico Madrid in extra-time.
Diego Forlan scored his second goal with Fulham four minutes from a penalty shoot-out. Earlier Simon Davies had got a first-half equaliser but neither of Fulham's injured stars Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff lasted the 90 minutes. Hodgson said that he was proud of his team for coming so close in a 19-game cup run that began in July.
Hodgson, who has been linked to the Liverpool job should Rafael Benitez quit, said that he would see out the final year of his contract. "As far as my future is concerned I haven't given it a moment's thought," he said. "I've been fully committed to Fulham as long as I've been here and always will be. I still have a contract at Fulham and as far as I'm concerned that's where I'll be [next season].
"We have played 63 games and extra-time [last night] and it was very tough, but I cannot be more proud of my players. They have been performing against the odds all season. We went a goal down and then found the way to fight back and almost take the game to penalties, so I cannot fault my team.
"We have done the best possible job I can do, but unfortunately fate was against us lifting the trophy. I thought we played well in the game and were good value to be going towards penalties. But there is now a sense of disappointment after losing so close to the end when I thought there were long periods of the second half where we looked comfortable."
Zamora played 55 minutes of the game, and had a role in Davies' goal, before he was replaced by Clint Dempsey, and he is now set for an operation this summer on his troublesome Achilles tendon problem. Hodgson said that his team fancied their chances had the game gone to penalties but they were denied by Forlan's 24th goal of the season.
Davies said: "We were hanging on a bit towards the end and looking to take it to penalties and try our luck. At the moment it is very painful but when we get home we'll reflect on what is a great achievement, something to be proud of in years to come. We knew they were a good team but there were times we caused them problems." With seven players including Danny Murphy, Paul Konchesky and Dickson Etuhu out of contract at the end of next season, Fulham are expected to make major changes in the summer. Hodgson, who lost the 1997 Uefa Cup final with Internazionale, said that his club's great season proved no consolation.
He said: "Everyone wants to finish first, but finishing second at this level of competition after 63 games is a remarkable achievement. The players are very, very down as they felt they had a good chance of winning this competition. We've suffered a bitter blow, but when the pain lifts we can look forward to next season.
"I never imagined we'd get here in my wildest dreams, but that doesn't help. Having been here and seen the team play so well we wanted to take that extra step. It's very different to find any comfort and any joy and enthusiasm after the season we've had. My feelings are one of sadness and bitter disappointment that another good performance has not been rewarded."
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