Fulham FC's transformation from Premier League strugglers to European finalists has taken less than two years, and few have any doubts about who is responsible. Roy Hodgson, whether he is an "honest man" or wily "old fox", has ushered in a golden age at Fulham FC.
Sir Alex Ferguson joined a growing band of avowed Hodgson admirers when he last week claimed the 62-year-old was the only man in the running for the manager of the year award. "It is a miracle," the Manchester United FC chief said of Fulham's run to next week's UEFA Europa League final. "It is one of the best British performances of all time." And Sir Alex knows a thing or two about success on the continental stage.
As does Hodgson, who has accrued as much experience as he has air miles in the 34 years since the former English non-league player took his first role as coach at Sweden's Halmstads BK. After spells with FC Internazionale Milano and the Finnish and Swiss national teams, to name a few, he accepted a return to London (he was born in nearby Croydon) at the end of 2007. Fulham were struggling, and would come 14 minutes from relegation before clawing their way back – a Lazarus act re-enacted a few more times during this UEFA Europa League campaign.
The west London side have seen off UEFA Cup holders FC Shakhtar Donetsk, mustered a four-goal swing against Juventus and came from behind to beat 1983 European champions Hamburger SV in last week's semi-final decider. UEFA.com asks three of his players about the man with the Midas touch.
Danny Murphy, captain and midfielder
His contribution to the club in such a short space of time has been nothing short of amazing. He really has transformed the club, and the reason for that is because he's a knowledgeable man with his football. He treats people with respect and maturity and while they sound like obvious things for a manager, they're not I can assure you. He's an honest man. He's always there to talk to you and whether it be positive or negative, he will tell you how he's feeling, which is healthy I think – honesty is not always something that managers are good at.
In terms of his coaching he is a perfectionist. He works really hard on the training pitch with his other staff, to make sure the team plays the way he wants the team to play. We know our jobs; there's no question mark over what he wants from us, and I think you see the way we play, we are organised. He gets the lads playing, in terms of their commitment, hunger and work ethic.
Mark Schwarzer, goalkeeper
He's an old fox, isn't he? He's got a lot of experience from around the world, particularly European football, and I think that shows.
Our style of football works really well for us in Europe, playing against European opposition, because of the way we want to play football, the way we close down our opposition, retain possession – we want to play the game in an effective way. Maybe not always the most entertaining way, but an effective way. The manager is obviously 100% behind that, and that's why we play like we do. He instils a great deal of confidence and he uses his experience to help the players along the way as well.
Aaron Hughes, defender
He has been around, all over the world; whether it's a national team or at a club level, he has seen a lot of different styles. He knows how different teams play and their styles, and has given us a platform to work off. He knows what he wants and how to get his players to do it. He likes us to play football in the right way, passing it around. At the same time, playing in the Premier League every week, you have to adapt sometimes, you have to be a bit more physical. When we defend, we defend well as a unit; everyone chips in and helps. When we attack we create problems for other teams – that has been big part of our success.
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