Hodgson plays down Fulham form

Roy Hodgson has advised caution over unrealistic expectations as

Fulham attempt to complete an outstanding year with victory at


Pundits have been queuing up to shower Hodgson’s Fulham with

praise as the club continues to punch above its weight under the

guidance of their astute manager.

They finished last season’s Premier League campaign in an

all-time high of seventh, qualifying for the Europa League, and

continue to thrive this term.

A last 32 appointment with Shakhtar Donetsk awaits in Europe

while the club enter Monday’s Bank Holiday round of fixtures in

ninth place, five points above Sunderland.

Evidence of their growing ambition could be gleaned from

their frustration at failing to dispatch Champions League-chasing

Tottenham in yesterday’s goalless draw at Craven Cottage.

Just seven days earlier they thumped champions Manchester

United 3-0 and west London rivals Chelsea will face a side brimming

with confidence.

But while Hodgson agrees Fulham fans should be revelling in

the success, he implores them not to lose sight of the club’s


“Our blank sheet of paper at the start of the season said

stay up,” he said. “I’m delighted with the way things are going,

especially for the chairman because he’s had many bad years.

“The fans are enjoying it and this is a very good moment in

our history.

“But if we ever start thinking this is easy, we’ll be heading

for a fall.

“Just look at clubs like Leeds, Charlton and Norwich – who’d

have thought it possible that they’d be where they are now?

“Our message to the fans is let’s keep enjoying it but to not

lose sight of why it’s happening. Let’s not get carried away.

“We’ll never have more than 24,000 people watching our games

in our wonderful old stadium.

“We won’t have a ground like the Emirates or Old Trafford

because this is who we are.

“We are near the maximum of what we can be, but we can stay


“There’s no reason why we have to drop but it will be very

hard to stay here.”

Fulham’s hopes of securing a rare victory over their

neighbours have been damaged by the availability of Didier Drogba,

Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel, who have agreed a delay to their

departure for the African Nations Cup.

But Nicolas Anelka, Michael Essien and Florent Malouda are

missing and Fulham will fancy their chances of toppling a team that

has drawn four of their last five matches.

“Chelsea have strength in depth and that great feeling that

constant winning does for you. They just don’t lose at Stamford

Bridge,” he said.

“They feel that whatever team they put out will be capable of

beating the Fulhams of this world. Hopefully we’ll frighten them a

little bit.

“We’re not involved in the title race but I listen to what

the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti are saying and

we must give them credence when they say the Premiership is tougher

than ever.

“They know they will lose more games than they did a few

years ago.”

Fulham will assess the fitness of Brede Hangeland carefully

before deciding if the centre-back will start. Hangeland suffered a

knee injury during yesterday’s warm-up and although he completed

the match he is a doubt to face the Premier League leaders.

Only the heroics of Heurelho Gomes denied Fulham three points

against Spurs with the Brazilian keeper denying goalbound attempts

by Clint Dempsey, Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff.