Hughes happy with turnaround

The Cottagers endured a poor start to the campaign and were

flirting with relegation at the turn of the year, leading to

speculation that Hughes could lose his job. However, Fulham’s form

in the second half of the season has been nothing less than

outstanding and they head into Sunday’s match with a chance of

sneaking into the top seven. If the Cottagers beat Arsenal and

Everton lose to Chelsea they will equal their best-ever top-flight

finish. While Hughes has regularly aired his belief that the

Cottagers are a top-10 side, even he admits he has been surprised

by his side’s achievements. “We have had a massive turnaround in

the second half of the season and I always anticipated we would,”

he said. “We knew that key personnel would return like Bobby

(Zamora) and Andy Johnson, who had missed a lot of games and was

only just getting back to full fitness. “We always said we would be

strong in the second half but probably we even exceed our

expectations in the second half. “We have been really strong and

really enjoyed it. We have played some great football, got plenty

of points and done really well.” Asked whether he takes any

personal pride after the turnaround, he added: “I think so.

Obviously I am the figurehead of the club but it is more about the

recognition my staff get. “At times we are a little but under the

radar and we just go about our business quite quietly. “It is only

towards the end of the season when people think: ‘Oh, goodness me,

Fulham have actually done quite well this year’. “It is not about

personal recognition, I’ve had plenty of that in my career. “It is

about making sure that the staff get the recognition they deserve

because without them I can’t do my job.” Hughes was also quick to

laud his players’ attitude – an attribute that some have suggested

is lacking at Sunday’s opponents Arsenal. The Gunners head into the

final match of the season on the back of a run that has seen them

win just twice in their past 12 matches. “I am a little but

surprised by the way they have tailed off,” said Hughes. “At one

point they could have won four trophies. “I think it has been

mentioned in the media this week that the Carling Cup final

affected them markedly and they haven’t seemed to recovered from

that for whatever reason. “But they have still got the potential to

create chances and win Premier League games. “They are an

outstanding team on their day. I know recent results have not gone

as they would like but within that run they still had the ability

to beat Manchester United. “That tells you that they are a very

good team and if they are focused and the intensity of their play

is there then they are very difficult to overcome.” Much of the

blame for Arsenal’s poor form has been apportioned to the club’s

inability to bring in a top quality goalkeeper during the summer.

Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was one of targeted to sure up the

position but a move to the Emirates Stadium never came to fruition.

Asked whether Hughes was surprised Arsenal did not come back with a

better bid, Hughes said: “Well they could probably have not worked

any harder [to get him] but the intention was to keep Mark and that

is what happened. “Their situation in regards to their goalkeeper

is not something that really interests me now because the focus

they had on my keeper has gone away now because we protected our

position. “That is important and was important for Mark at the

time, that we showed the commitment that we had as a club and

myself as the manager and we are delighted with that. “It only in

the past few years that they haven’t won trophies and as a

consequence more people question the decisions that are made or

aren’t made and that is what Arsene (Wenger) is facing at the

moment.”