Hodgson shelves Fulham's European hopes

Pa,Paul Hirst
Friday 05 February 2010 14:59
Hodgson oversaw a poor month for Fulham
Hodgson oversaw a poor month for Fulham

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is happy to put a disastrous January behind him - a month which he believes has cost his side the chance to fight for a place in Europe next year.

Last season Hodgson brought European football to Craven Cottage after he guided his side to an unlikely seventh-place finish.

The Cottagers made a slow start to this season before going on a good run which culminated in a 3-0 victory over Barclays Premier League champions Manchester United the week before Christmas.

That shock win raised expectations that Hodgson's men could make Europe again this year, but a recent run of five straight defeats was only halted by Wednesday's 1-0 win over rock bottom Portsmouth at Craven Cottage.

Hodgson's efforts have been blighted by a series of long-term injuries to key players like Andy Johnson, Clint Dempsey and Paul Konchesky.

The former Inter Milan manager is hoping for an improvement in form and luck in February.

"I don't think we're looking at Europe this year. I think we dropped too many points in January," said the 62 year old.

"The teams that are going to be European this year, which is only the top six, they're already 10-12 points ahead of us.

"And furthermore, I think it's unrealistic. Had there been no injuries, had Johnson, Dempsey, (John) Pantsil, Konchesky, (Simon) Davies, (Zoltan) Gera, had all these players been fit all the time, then maybe we wouldn't have lost many games in January, and maybe would have had a few more points.

"But we didn't, we had to battle through January as we did with a really wounded team, and as a result, I think we've slipped too far away from the top six.

"Our chance of getting into Europe will be to win a cup competition."

In fairness to Hodgson, the teams to whom Fulham lost in January - Spurs, Chelsea and Aston Villa - are among the toughest in the league.

Nevertheless, the Cottagers still looked below par against Avram Grant's side in midweek, and will have to up their game against a Bolton outfit who are fighting for their lives just above the relegation zone.

A home fixture against Burnley follows Saturday's clash before the Cottagers host Coca-Cola League Two side Notts County in the FA Cup.

Hodgson is now hoping for a good run so his side can regain their confidence and edge away from the relegation zone.

"The Portsmouth result will buoy us up and will give us momentum," Hodgson added.

"If we can get something from the game and then something from the game against Burnley, we'll have started February well and, once again, we'll be nosing towards the top end of the table, and leaving the bottom half of the table behind us."

Stefano Okaka could start up front with Bobby Zamora despite a glaring miss on his debut on Wednesday.

Hodgson is hopeful that Davies (foot) and Gera (knee) will recover from knocks to face Owen Coyle's side, who are looking for only the second league win since the Scot took charge.

The Cottagers have not won an away league game since the opening day of the season and Hodgson is braced for a tough match.

He said: "It's another away game, always a difficult game, and even the top three or four teams in the country, with no injury problems, don't find it easy going to places like Hull and Bolton.

"They're desperate for points, they're going to be fighting for their lives.

"But, if we show the type of character and courage we showed against Portsmouth, we'll give them a very good game."

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