Pat Nevin has tipped Roy Hodgson to succeed Fabio Capello as England coach. While Capello will spend his week taking a final check on potential training bases in South Africa before learning the Three Lions' group stage opponents at Friday's draw in Cape Town, Hodgson is plotting a different continental path for Fulham.
Victory over CSKA Sofia at Craven Cottage tomorrow would put the Londoners back on track to land a place in the knockout stages of the revamped Europa League.
Such an achievement would be another notch on Hodgson's illustrious CV, which includes two years at Internazionale in addition to international management with both Switzerland and Finland.
And, when the time comes for Capello to stand down, Nevin feels the 62-year-old should be top of the list of candidates to replace the Italian.
"There is a feeling in the wind that Roy should one day be England manager and I would go along with that," said Nevin, who will be working at tomorrow night's game as a pundit for Channel Five. "It would be a shame if, when Capello does leave, the FA felt there was not an Englishman capable of taking the England team.
"There are two or three people who are at the latter stages of their careers, which, historically, is when people are best suited to international management. Roy Hodgson would have to be regarded as a serious contender."
Certainly, the job Hodgson has done at Fulham bears close scrutiny.
While Portsmouth did have the benefit of an additional influx of cash, plus the expertise of Harry Redknapp to win the FA Cup and reach Europe from a similarly unpromising position, Hodgson has been forced to invest time in improving players who had failed to make much of an impact previously. The result was a late-season surge into seventh spot – an improvement that has been maintained this season, even if injuries to star men such as Andrew Johnson are proving to be a handicap. "Roy knows he will never be able to afford the really big-name players that would allow Fulham to push for a Champions League place," said Nevin. "What he does instead is make his teams very organised and ensures he gets the best from what he has. The tactics he uses are fairly simple but, with someone like Brede Hangeland as a central component, he is able to build something that is very effective."
Unlike Aston Villa last term, who basically gave up their European dream to pursue an ultimately failed bid to finish in the top four, Fulham will not go out without a fight. The Europa League may still be viewed as an irritation compared to the Champions League but, with Liverpool and possibly Bayern Munich about to drop into it, there will be a star quality when the next stage begins in February.
"Having Liverpool in there will bring the Europa League to more people's attention," said Nevin. "But it is a good competition already. Ajax might not be the force of old but Hamburg are a very good team, so are Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, and I view Shakhtar Donetsk as the favourites.
"Even a club like Salzburg are dangerous. Liverpool fans would probably regard it as a bye into the next round if they drew them. But that could be a very big mistake."Reuse content