BY DAN EVANS
Last weekend’s 1-0 victory against Luton helped Marco Silva to his 50th win as Fulham’s head coach in just 100 games in charge.
A one in two win rate makes him Fulham’s most successful boss since Kevin Keegan led the Whites to the Division Two title in the late 1990s, but one man who has an even greater level of acclaim among the Craven Cottage faithful is Roy Hodgson.
After miraculously saving Fulham from topflight relegation at the end of the 2007/8 season, Hodgson guided the club on a seismic two-year rise that culminated in an appearance in the 2010 Europa League Final.
Fulham were beaten 2-1 by Atletico Madrid on that night in Hamburg. Yet, Hodgson, who won the LMA Manager of the Year award during his time at the Cottage, is still seen as one of the most significant figures in the club’s modern history.
On Saturday, Hodgson will return to the Crystal Palace dugout following falling unwell before the Aston Villa game, and returns just in time to take on an opponent he led to such remarkable success over a decade ago.
“I really admire him,” said Silva ahead of his sixth meeting with Hodgson as a manager.
“His career speaks for itself. He is a top person – a gentleman.
“Even though we only have a short period of time together before the match or after the match, it’s always a pleasure to be with him.
“It’s great to see him back in the dugout again.”
That run to the 2010 final is one of just three seasons that Fulham have spent in European competition throughout their 144-year history. Silva’s success since his appointment in July 2021 has brought fresh hope that further adventures on the continent could await Fulham in the not-too-distant future.
Their tenth-place Premier League finish in 2022-23 was their highest since the days of Martin Jol and Clint Dempsey in 2011-12 – coincidentally, the last season they took part in European football.
A testing summer transfer window saw top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic depart for Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal, and the influential Joao Palhinha was on the verge of joining Bayern Munich before a deadline day move collapsed.
Silva’s side have reacted well, though, starting the season with seven points from their first five matches despite difficult away trips to Arsenal and Manchester City.
But the Portuguese boss would not be drawn on the potential of European football returning to Craven Cottage in the near future.
“The ambition is to move forward as a football club,” Silva said. “To keep improving and trying to get better results.
“What is going to happen in the end? We don’t know. Something we are 100 per cent going to do is be ambitious.
“Every single game, we want to fight for three points and try to improve.
“It’s going to be a really competitive Premier League as always. It is going to be tougher [than last season], and we have to be ready for everything.”
PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD
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