Unexpected success can have its pitfalls
Fulham supporters are looking on to season with more optimism than usual with a European campaign to look forward to and a manager that has rejuvenated the clubs fortunes. However fans should be mindful as Roy Hodgson enters his second full season in charge of the West Londoners; though he has brought in players worthy of the Premier League challenge highlighted with their seventh place finish last term. But now with the added pressure of a European campaign confirmed on Thursday night with a 6-0 aggregate win over FK Vetra the squad will feel the strain of the added fixtures. In addition to this, if Fulham qualify for the group stage of the newly redesigned Uefa Europa League this would mean the Cottagers would have played ten European fixtures before the turn of the year. With Stephen Kelly and Bjorn Helge Riise the only additions this summer to Hodgson’s already thin squad, the possibility of more fixtures or a run of injuries may cripple the West Londoners.
Roy Hodgson’s time at Blackburn Rovers in the late nineties should add to any little fears Fulham supporters have of any second season syndrome. All was rosy for Hodgson after his first full season at Ewood Park, in which he replaced Ray Harford in 1997, as he steered Rovers to a 6th place in finish in the Premier League gaining Uefa Cup football for the following season. Starting to sound slightly familiar? After a disastrous start to the following campaign Hodgson was sacked six months later by the Rovers board leaving Blackburn precariously in the relegation zone. Blackburn was later relegated that season under the leadership of Brian Kidd who could not turn their fortunes round and struggle to mend the damage that had already been made earlier in the season by Hodgson. In addition to all of this, Hodgson since 1990 has been in twelve, yes TWELVE managerial jobs with his longest stint in any of those jobs being three years. Worried Fulham Fans?
Hodgson has no doubt put a good team together by scouring the transfer markets for bargains such as Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland and Erik Nevland to play alongside big money signings like Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora. However with more fixtures added to the tough 38 Premier League season and with the two domestic cup competitions their small squad will be stretched to its max. Prolonged runs in European competition for clubs outside of the top four as resulted in adverse affects on their Premier League form. Added fixtures to Aston Villa’s 2008/09 Premier League campaign resulted in an end of season burnout and left their challenge for a Champions League spot in tatters. Middlesbrough’s run to the Uefa Cup final in 2006, where they ultimately lost 4-0 to a strong Sevilla side; saw them increasingly close to the relegation zone during the season but later finished 14th. Ipswich Town’s return to the Premier League in 2000/01 season saw them finish an impressive 5th. However their advanced run in the Uefa Cup the following campaign ,where they met the likes of Inter Milan, resulted in a terrible second season in the Premier League and relegation back to the Football League where they have remained since.
Roy Hodgson has produced miracles at Fulham since his arrival in 2007 keeping the Cottagers up in the Premier League and then followed it up with European qualification. However his second full season at Fulham promises to be the most interesting thus far.