Fulham deny lining up Collins as new manager

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The Independent Football

Fulham have denied speculation that they are planning to replace their manager Roy Hodgson with John Collins.

The Cottagers' prospects of escaping relegation from the Premier League look bleak following Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Sunderland, increasing doubts over Hodgson's future. The 60-year-old has failed to lead the club out of the bottom three and they remain six points adrift of safety with just five games to go.

But Fulham yesterday denied their former midfielder Collins, who left Hibernian in December, is being lined up for a return to Craven Cottage. A statement read: "The club would like to inform supporters that the articles that have appeared are untrue.

"Unfounded speculation concerning our football manager's position is unhelpful, particularly at a time when the club is focused on preparing for Saturday's important fixture at Reading."

Collins, a free agent, was linked with the Fulham manager's job when Lawrie Sanchez was sacked in December, but Hodgson was appointed instead. Sanchez had left the club in a desperate position despite being given nearly £25m to spend during the summer.

The former Northern Ireland coach spent the money on a selection of players from the Football League, some would say wastefully, and paid the price with his job.

Hodgson used his Scandinavian contacts to strengthen the squad in January, but there has been no discernible improvement and Fulham appear doomed to the Championship next season.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Stilian Petrov has vowed to finally show the Aston Villa fans the form that persuaded Martin O'Neill to splash out £6m to sign him from Celtic nearly two years ago.

Midfielder Petrov has seldom shown his best form with Villa and O'Neill finally lost patience with the player when he left him out of the side after substituting him at half-time against Newcastle last month.

But the Bulgarian international has not let his head drop and has impressed since being recalled to the starting line-up for the games with Manchester United and Bolton.

Petrov said: "To be honest, the manager knows me better than anyone and I don't complain [when left out]. Nigel Reo-Coker and Gareth Barry have been doing well and you can't ask for anything more.

"I know I haven't been performing the way everybody expects me to but I'm the first to criticise myself if things aren't going well. I get frustrated as well but I've been working hard.

"It is great to be playing in the team again and the the reaction from the fans when I came off near the end of the game with Bolton was great.

"I know what I can do, what I am capable of, and they will see that from me more and more. Hopefully I will keep my place for the trip to Derby this weekend."

Petrov is refusing to give up on Villa qualifying for Europe after the 4-0 win against the Trotters ended a run of five matches without a victory.

He said: "We performed very well against Bolton and it was great to win again, clock up the four goals and also keep a clean sheet.

"Now we hope we can keep that level of performance going. It is still all to play for and Europe is still a possibility.

"If we keep going in this vein then I am sure we will still get into Europe.

"But Derby will be a hard game in the sense that all the pressure is on us. They've got nothing to fight for in the sense they are already relegated so it's up to us to play the right way.

"Derby haven't won a game for a while and I hope they won't end that run against us. We have to make sure that doesn't happen and we have to put in a lot of hard work again."

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