Eriksson backs away as Hughes prepares to take reins at Fulham

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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson appears to have dropped out of the running for the manager's position at Fulham, a development which leaves Mark Hughes looking the most likely candidate at a club badly needing to replace Roy Hodgson, with the season only 16 days off

The odds on Hughes leapt from 5-4 to 2-9 with William Hill yesterday and it seems the 46-year-old has gradually become more convinced that Craven Cottage is a big enough place to renew his career, seven months after his dismissal at Manchester City.

Eriksson, who has the offer of another contract with Ivory Coast on the table, had seemed to be a strong contender, considering the strong relationship he built up with the current Fulham chief executive, Alistair Mackintosh. But The Independent understands that he now considers that proposition to be highly unlikely.

Instead, his successor at Manchester City, Hughes, who had perhaps anticipated a bigger role in which to re-enter the game, may be back in London for the first time since he left Chelsea as a player to join Southampton, back in 1998.

Ottmar Hitzfeld, the current Switzerland national manager, is another contender for the Fulham position following the collapse of Martin Jol's switch from Ajax last week, on a shortlist said to be "very short".

Hughes had been intrigued by the Liverpool job and the Anfield board hold him in high esteem, though a club career which has included Manchester United and Everton proved an impediment. West Ham's owners David Sullivan and David Gold have also appreciated Hughes from a time pre-dating his departure from Manchester City, and that might have seemed a bigger opportunity than the role on the bank of Thames.

Chairman Mohammed al-Fayed has insisted he will not be rushed into making a decision, though there are some pressing issues to contend with for the new manager, including the futures of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer – a target for Arsenal – and striker Bobby Zamora.

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