Hodgson given task of keeping Fulham up

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The Independent Football

Roy Hodgson last night agreed to become Mohamed Al Fayed's eighth Fulham manager in 11 seasons. It will be the Croydon-born 60-year-old's third, and probably final attempt to show the English game why he is one of the sport's most respected coaches.

The former non-League footballer has worked in eight countries winning five league titles and managing three national teams. He took Switzerland to the World Cup, Internazionale to the Uefa Cup final, and Finland to the brink of Euro 2008. He is a regular on Uefa and Fifa coaching panels. Yet his previous stints in England, at Bristol City in 1982, and Blackburn Rovers from 1997-98, both ended in the sack having won 25 of 82 league matches in total. His lack of success in this country is one of football's curiosities.

Hodgson was due to take up an ambassadorial post at Inter in the New Year, and was seeking to combining that with coaching the Republic of Ireland national team.

Instead he starts work at Fulham, on what the club describe as a long-term contract, tomorrow. Today he will watch a Fulham side picked and managed by caretaker Ray Lewington play at Birmingham City. His first game in charge will be the derby at home against Chelsea on New Year's Day

Fulham, who last won on 3 November, have taken two points from 21 and their 5-1 defeat at Spurs on Boxing Day left them in the relegation zone.

Hodgson said: "I am delighted to have been offered this opportunity. After long talks with the chairman and the board I am convinced that we can take the club to a new level."

He added: "I am determined that we will overcome the current position, which I understand will be a challenge, but one that I will relish."

Hodgson is an interesting, even bold choice. There are few more experienced managers in the game this will be his 16th job in a 31-year management career. His experience of the Premier League is, though, limited to those 18 months at Blackburn. After a bright start, with Blackburn second at Christmas, the team declined to sixth. The following season they started badly, Hodgson was fired, Rovers were relegated. Some players later ridiculed his politeness. The impression was that the urbane Hodgson found the players unsophisticated, personally and tactically.

The English game has moved on since but Fulham have a higher number of UK-born players than most, Lawrie Sanchez having signed a string of Northern Ireland internationals. It is understood Hodgson will have money to spend in the transfer window with Al Fayed concerned that relegation will drastically hit the club's value just as he is thinking of selling.

That view was contested by the chairman who said: "My commitment to this club has never dwindled and I am more than ever determined that we have the right man to turn round our current predicament and build for a successful future."

Al Fayed added: "It is my vision to combine the best of the fantastic traditions of the Premier League with the flair and innate professionalism of the continental game. I believe that Roy has immense experience in all areas of football and can drive this club forward for the long term."

Hodgson's career began at Crystal Palace but he failed to play a senior match and went into non-League, launching his coaching career as assistant to Roy Houghton at Maidstone United. The pair moved to Sweden, Hodgson winning his first titles in his own right at unfashionable Halmstads.

He returned to England, initially with Houghton, at Bristol City but the club had severe financial problems. Back in Sweden he had further success before leaving for a peripatetic career. This is his 10th job in 11 years.

A contender to succeed Berti Vogts as German coach in 1998 he was also on England's shortlist before Sven Goran Eriksson's appointment. Latterly he has generally worked in Scandinavia and earlier this year was one result from taking Finland to their first finals.

A wanderer returns Life and times of Roy Hodgson

* PLAYING CAREER

1965-68: Crystal Palace

1968-75: Non-League (including Tonbridge Angels, Gravesend & Northfleet, Carshalton, Maidstone United); Berea Park (South Africa)



* COACHING CAREER

1976: Halmstads (Sweden)

1982: Bristol City

1983: Orebro (Sweden)

1985: Malmo (Sweden) 1990: Neuchatel Xamax (Switzerland)

1992: Switzerland

1995: Internazionale

1997: Blackburn Rovers

1999: Internazionale (technical director)

1999: Grasshoppers Zurich (Switzerland)

2000: FC Copenhagen

2001: Udinese (Italy)

2002: United Arab Emirates

2004: Viking FK (Norway)

2006: Finland

2007: Fulham



* HONOURS

4 Allsvenskan titles (Sweden); 2 Swedish Cups;

1 Superliga title (Denmark);

1 Uefa Cup final (Inter, '97)

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