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Hodgson dares to dream as Sven fears Thaksin axe

in English Premier League 27 Apr 2008

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Fulham boss Roy Hodgson admits he has started to dream of an incredible escape from relegation after a remarkable 3-2 comeback win at Manchester City which will only have added to Thaksin Shinawatra's apparent unhappiness with Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Seemingly doomed to relegation to the Championship before kick-off, Fulham trailed at half-time on Saturday to goals from City midfielder Stephen Ireland and forward Benjani.

But the Cottagers staged a devastating fightback over the game's final 20 minutes, substitute Diomansy Kamara's second goal of the afternoon clinching victory in the 92nd minute after Danny Murphy had converted the rebound from his own missed penalty to equalise.

Fulham remain three points adrift of safety but have two winnable games to come — at home to fellow strugglers Birmingham next weekend before travelling to FA Cup finalists Portsmouth on the final day of the season, six days before Pompey appear at Wembley.

“We have given ourselves a giant shot in the arm, brought ourselves back into some sort of contention,” Hodgson said.

“Most people have written us off for a long time but I like to believe that the quality of football we have played over a long period has not got us the rewards we deserve. And I don't think I have to apologise for winning, we didn't win luckily.

“Next week's game is huge. They tell me that at one stage during the second half we were relegated, although I don't follow results minute by minute. Now I'm just delighted that we have a huge game coming up.

“It won't be easy. It's all very well saying if you win the last two games you can stay up, but I have to keep reminding myself, and the players, that we have only won six games all season.

“We're not Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Man United. It won't be easy but I'm just glad for the club, the players, the supporters, that we have given ourselves hope.”

As Hodgson noted, at one stage early in the second half, results involving Reading, Bolton, Birmingham and Middlesbrough would have seen Fulham relegated had those outcomes remain unchanged and Hodgson's team gone on to lose.

Instead, Hodgson punched the air in the final seconds after Kamara's incredible winner, showing his passion for the game remains strong at the age of 60.

“I can't imagine my passion for the game has ever been in doubt,” said Hodgson.

“The fact that, at mine and Sven's stage of life, when we have over 32 years and 1,000-plus games behind us, beyond our sixties, doesn't necessarily mean we run around applauding every free-kick or jump up every time we have a shot. But anyone who knows Sven or me would never doubt the passion or enthusiasm we have for the game.”

Hodgson may have done a major disservice to his friend and opposite number Eriksson, however, given the uncertainty surrounding the Swede's future with City and their owner Thaksin.

The Thai billionaire made a rare appearance at the City of Manchester Stadium and was seen in the tunnel after the game looking less than impressed at events.

Sources close to Shinawatra have hinted for some time that their man has been unimpressed by City's second half to the season and the performance at their last home game of the season cannot have sat well with the owner, especially as a place even in the Inter-Toto Cup now looks beyond them.

“Twenty minutes over one season can't effect anything,” insisted Eriksson when asked where this performance left his relationship with his employer.

“If you're looking at the big picture for next season and seasons to come. “But, of course, if these three points mean we lose on a place in Europe it is a big pity.

“The moment you think the game is over, the moment you think you don't have to get behind the ball or be aggressive or defend, then anything is possible in football.

“It was just one of those days. We stopped playing and, even though we created a lot of chances, you can't do that against any team in the Premier League, not even if it's a bottom three team.”

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