Early Doors

Fulham need to be hated

Early Doors

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Forget leading Fulham to the Europa League final, Roy Hodgson's biggest achievement will be if he and his club become disliked.

Uncle Woy's Whites became everybody's second team as they battled their way against the odds to Hamburg, and today they are the recipients of universal sympathy and condescending pats on the back.

Early Doors has never seen an outpouring of support like that on Danny Murphy's blog, where he was wished good luck by fans of every stripe, including Chelsea.

Hodgson's achievements at Craven Cottage have been so comprehensively lauded his media commitments require him only to fend off a barrage of fawning compliments.

Oliver Holt's column in today's Daily Mirror is headed: 'After 30 years the big secret is finally out... Hodgson's a top boss.'

Secret? Not if you've turned on the TV, listened to the radio or read a newspaper at any point in the last 16 months. 'Hodgson is god' has been one of this season's overriding themes.

For an old cynic like ED, it is all a little nauseating. Hodgson's a very good manager, but the way people carry on you'd think he can illuminate the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham just by dropping his trousers.

The problem with all this adoration is that, however impressive the wins over Shakhtar, Juventus, Wolfsburg and Hamburg, clearly nobody sees Fulham as a proper rival.

And in many ways, last night agonising defeat was exactly what English fans expected and wanted from 'Plucky Little Fulham'.

Much as everybody liked Nick Clegg until he got an important job, Fulham won't be quite so cuddly if they become a genuine threat to others rather than a life-affirming sideshow.

So let's help them on their way with three reasons to hate Fulham:

1- They're very middle-class
Fulham are a little too nice, too bourgeois and too family friendly. They are certainly the only club in the land where you can enjoy your half-time pint and pie (or Rioja and vol-au-vent) on a concourse beside the River Thames. You might have to be a bit of a misanthrope to take exception to the fact that a game at Craven Cottage is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, but you rather get the feeling you're at a rugby match.

2- They were trailblazers for foreign ownership
They are described as an old-fashioned, family-run club, when they have an Egyptian owner who has just sold Harrods for £1.5bn. You might just have heard of him. And while Mo Fayed's wealth pales in comparison to the Abu Dhabi United Group, he was almost a prototype Abramovich. Remember the way Fayed's lavish spending helped them romp through the divisions around the turn of the Millennium with Kevin Keegan in charge? They might spend within their means these days, but ED cannot forget the days of £11.5m for Steve Marlet.

3- They are Middlesbrough in disguise
Seriously. What exactly is the difference between Fulham and Middlesbrough, whose run to the 2006 UEFA Cup final inspired little but indifference? Boro's voyage through the knock-out stages was no less remarkable than Fulham's, as they beat Stuttgart and Roma before securing not one but two miracle comebacks - coming from 3-0 down to beat Basel 4-3 and, er, coming from 3-0 down to beat Steaua Bucharest 4-3. Both teams were managed by an Englishman, both teams had a core of British players and both had Mark Schwarzer in goal. Both teams even play by a river, although Boro's Teesside location wedged between industrial estates is arguably less salubrious.

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Hats off to Atletico Madrid, by the way. Like a pre-wonga Manchester City, they have had to exist in the shadow of their city rivals, given little choice but to revel in their reputation for chaos and heroic failure. They deserve a chance to lord it over Real just this once.

And ED can't help but wonder what hometown hero Fernando Torres, who left the Calderon for a chance to win trophies with Liverpool, made of last night's goings-on.

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Is it just Early Doors, or are these World Cup injury scares getting rubbisher?

Yesterday afternoon we had to digest the news that John Terry had broken his metatarsal and was definitely out of the World Cup (and judging by the smirks around ED, most people would rather see a contemptible man suffer than England win the World Cup - which is exactly how it should be).

Then an hour later there was no fracture, in fact no injury at all, and he was going to be back in training in the morning, and available for the FA Cup final. Panic over. It must rate as the shortest injury lay-off of all time.

Last month Wayne Rooney's twisted ankle provoked sheer terror as he faced a fitness race to make the plane for South Africa. Then a week later he was back in action - so quick a return that he has had time to sustain two more injuries since then.

And no doubt Gareth Barry, having been all but written off by parts of the media, will also make a full recovery from his ankle ligament problem. Actually, ED is going to stop whingeing and just be grateful.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Nigel Pearson admirably refuses to throw Yann Kermorgant under a bus after the Frenchman's failed 'Panenka' saw Leicester beaten on penalties last night: "I think at this moment in time I'm going to leave the players with their own thoughts. What I think about it is neither here nor there. It's a difficult situation for the players to deal with and they need to think before they express things at the minute. But certainly, it's a cruel way to go out."

ED is just waiting for the inevitable ruck when Cardiff get promoted then go out of business.

FOREIGN VIEW: 'Daddy, now I know why we support Atleti' - Marca takes a rather strange angle on last night's Europa League victory. 48 trophyless years will do that to you. Meanwhile AS go for the double-sized fold-out front page normally reserved for royal weddings and major terrorist attacks.

COMING UP: It's international friendly time, and Jogi Loew's boys have a chance to fill their boots tonight. Minute-by-minute comments of Germany v Malta from 17:00 UK time.

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