Hodgson glad about Dunn's Rovers return

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The Independent Online

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has welcomed the return to form and fitness of David Dunn, more than a decade after giving the Blackburn midfielder his break in professional football.

Dunn has been the catalyst behind Rovers' recent revival which has seen them climb above Fulham into 11th place in the Premier League ahead of tonight's clash between the sides at Craven Cottage.

Hodgson knows all about the 29-year-old having handed the player his top-flight debut in September 1998 when he was manager of Blackburn.

Since then, Dunn has impressed in fits and starts, with a series of niggling injuries hampering his development and restricting him to just one England cap, in 2002.

Hodgson remains a big fan of Dunn and is delighted to see him back to something approaching his best form.

"He's a player who, during his best years, got blighted with some quite serious injuries that kept him out for months and months at a time," Hodgson said. "He's been unlucky with injuries and it's obvious that's had an effect. But his strength is that, despite all that, he's back now and to see him back and doing well is great.

"I gave him his debut. He was a very good player as an 18-year-old when he came into the team in 1998. He is obviously a very gifted player."

Dunn is Blackburn's top scorer this season with six goals from 10 starts, his latest coming in the 2-0 win at Bolton on Sunday. And given his rich vein of form, he will be the player Fulham need to watch.

Blackburn captain Ryan Nelsen believes Dunn deserves an England recall and Hodgson maintains the midfielder could still hold his own on the international stage.

"It will be difficult for David because Fabio Capello's been working for two years with a group of players and his central midfield is particularly strong," Hodgson said. "Realistically speaking it will be tough, but it's not out of the question. If you are asking me if he has the qualities to play for England, I am sure he has."

After a run of impressive results in October, which included a win over Liverpool and a draw at Manchester City, Fulham have stuttered in November, picking up only one point from matches against Wigan and Birmingham.

With games against Blackburn, Bolton, Sunderland and Burnley coming up, the London club will think they have a great opportunity to bounce back and catapult themselves into the top half of the standings. But Hodgson does not look at it that way.

"It's a very dangerous thing to do to say, 'These are the games that will lift us up the table or push us down the table'," he said. "I know there are managers who look at batches of games and calculate points but I don't do that. I think the important thing is that the team continues to play well. We believe here at Fulham we are capable of beating every team we play against. When we hit our best form, we are a handful for any team."

Hodgson, who revealed that he hopes to reach an agreement "in the very near future" regarding an extension to his contract, also sent a good luck message to Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce will miss the game tonight as he requires an angioplasty – a procedure which involves inserting a tube to widen a narrowed coronary artery – on Friday after complaining of chest pains in recent weeks.

"I get on very well with him and I wish him a good operation and a speedy recovery," Hodgson said.

"I'm glad for his sake they've found this anomaly. They'll put it right and I'm sure we'll see him back fitter, stronger and more vocal than ever pretty soon."

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