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By ESPN Staff

Hodgson named new manager of Fulham

Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed revealed his desire to see attacking football return to Craven Cottage inspired the appointment of new manager Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson takes over for the New Year's Day derby against Chelsea after landing a 'long-term contract', with caretaker boss Ray Lewington overseeing tomorrow's trip to Birmingham.

The most pressing challenge facing the former Blackburn and Inter Milan coach is steering Fulham out of the Premier League relegation zone.

But in a clear dig at the long-ball game favoured by Lawrie Sanchez, who was sacked a week ago after presiding over just two Premier League victories, Al Fayed has demanded a change in tactics.

The Fulham chairman wants to see a return to the passing game last seen under Jean Tigana - a message that will be welcomed by beleaguered Cottagers fans.

'It's my vision to combine the best of the fantastic traditions of the Premier League with the flair and innate professionalism of the continental game,' he said.

'I hope this vision will return Fulham to its tradition of playing attractive, passing football.

'I believe that Roy has immense experience in all areas of football and can drive this club forward for the long term.

'My commitment to this club has never dwindled and I'm more than ever determined that we have the right man to turn round our current predicament and build for a successful future.'

After the tenures of rookie coaches Chris Coleman and Sanchez, Hodgson arrives at Craven Cottage as something of an elder statesman.

He has accumulated over 30 years' managerial experience, including two stints at Italian giants Inter whom he steered to the UEFA Cup final in 1997.

The 60-year-old achieved fame in international football with Switzerland, a team he led to the finals of the 1994 World Cup and 1996 European Championships.

He recently took charge of Finland for their Euro 2008 qualification campaign and just missed out on securing a place at a major tournament for the first time in the nation's history.

'I'm delighted to have been offered this opportunity with Fulham,' said Hodgson. 'After long talks with the chairman and the board I'm convinced that we can take the club to a new level.

'I'm determined that we will overcome the current position, which I understand will be a challenge, but one that I will relish.

'I'm very much looking forward to training with the team on Sunday and will be at St Andrews tomorrow to watch the vital clash against Birmingham.'

Fulham defender Chris Baird had expected former Cottagers midfielder John Collins to take over following his departure from Hibernian.

'I'm very surprised - we thought John Collins was going to be the next manager but we were kept in the dark,' he told Sky Sports News.

Indeed, Fulham's determination to conduct their pursuit of Hodgson in secrecy kept everybody outside the board in the dark.

Even this morning Collins, who left Hibs last Friday in a move that sparked rumours he was set to take over at Craven Cottage, remained the favourite for the job.

Other contenders included Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle with Hodgson considered an outsider.

Lewington was expected to oversee Tuesday's clash with Chelsea as well but having identified Hodgson as the man to keep Fulham in the top flight, the club moved quickly to secure their man.