Davies: Hodgson transformed Fulham
Simon Davies admits Fulham were a "mess" when Roy Hodgson took over and hailed their "modest" manager for transforming the team into European contenders.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson claims Hodgson is a certainty to be named manager of the year following the Cottagers' "miraculous" march to the UEFA Europa League final, sealed with a battling 2-1 victory over Hamburg last night. The 62-year-old former Finland, Blackburn and Inter Milan coach came in to save Fulham from what seemed certain relegation when appointed successor to Lawrie Sanchez in late December 2007.
He then led the club to its highest finish of seventh and with it what has turned out to be a memorable European campaign which included a famous win over Italian giants Juventus. It is Hodgson's ability to get the best out of players such as captain Danny Murphy, Zoltan Gera and 19-goal Bobby Zamora which has proven his biggest attribute.
Davies - whose well-taken equaliser set up last night's stirring comeback - feels Hodgson deserves all the plaudits coming his way. "It is hard to describe what an achievement it is to get a club like ours through to the Europa League final. The manager has done wonders with the club," the 30-year-old Wales international said. "I have been here since he first came in, and as a team, we were really in a mess - we were struggling, conceding goal after goal.
"The first thing he worked on was our defensive shape, making us hard to beat and that carried us through to stay up and we have gone on from there," he went on. "We have got a modest manager, and he wants us to be a modest team - we are always the underdogs, but that suits us. This season, he has rotated when he had to, made big decisions when they were needed.
A calm coach
"The manager has such a composure and he instils that composure into the team," Davies added. "When we go away, we are compact, can frustrate teams and are very hard to beat. However, when we can get the ball down, we can also play some good football. To come back from 1-0 down says a lot about the character of this side because we kept playing for the team, not just ourselves."
Davies - who joined Fulham from Everton during January 2007 - had been through a difficult spell on the sidelines earlier in the campaign, and admits the prospect of a European final would at the time have seemed nothing more than a pipe dream. "I was out for the a couple of months, struggling with a foot injury and back then it would have been hard to imagine nights like we have had," he said. "I worked hard with the physios to get fit again, and the manager has put me back in the side. Hopefully with the goal, I have gone some way to repay him."
Fulham will meet Atletico Madrid in the final at Hamburg's HSH Nordbank Arena on 12 May, after the Spaniards knocked Liverpool out on away goals. Davies revealed the Fulham squad were not that disappointed to be facing continental opposition once again."We play Liverpool every year and playing Atletico Madrid will be something different for us, a great occasion," the midfielder said. "While it is a shame it will not be an all-England final, I think the majority of lads would have wanted Madrid."