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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 8, 2008

Fulham worried by premature celebrations

Roy Hodgson is concerned Fulham's premature victory celebrations at Craven Cottage last Saturday may yet come back to haunt them.

Hodgson joined chairman Mohamed Al Fayed and the team on a lap of honour following a critical 2-0 over Birmingham that has left them on the brink of an astonishing escape act.

Delirious fans chanted 'we are staying up, we are staying up' as some players took their children onto the pitch to experience the carnival atmosphere.

But defeat by Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Sunday could yet result in relegation and Hodgson believes last weekend's scenes have increased the pressure on his players.

'The reception we got from our fans after we beat Birmingham was fantastic,' he said.

'If anything it worried me because I don't think we deserved it. I thought it was magnificent of the fans to stay behind and give us that reception to make us feel good.

'But we can still slip into the Championship and there's still a big risk of that happening.

'That reception is probably the biggest pressure that has been put upon us because we realised, if we hadn't already, that it was so important to people.'

Fulham boss Hodgson admits he was surprised by the reaction of supporters who have otherwise been given precious few moments to savour in an otherwise dismal season.

'I thought the fans might still be a little bit disappointed that over the course of the season we hadn't given them as many games of that type,' he said

'I expected perhaps a bit more, cynicism is the right word, in their reception. But it seemed genuinely warm hearted.'

After the route one approach of Lawrie Sanchez, Hodgson's passing philosophy has bucked the trend of struggling teams seeking to muscle their way to safety.

Fulham enter the final round of Barclays Premier League matches separated by the relegation zone on goal difference and to Hodgson's credit they have passed their way out of the bottom three.

But former Inter Milan coach Hodgson insists his team's style of play will give him no extra satisfaction should they survive.

'You coach according to how you think the players you have should be best used. For the players we have, the way we play is the best way to use them,' he said.

'I don't believe one style is better than another. It's all football. The fans, though, do seem to appreciate the fact that we are able to pass the ball around.'

Hodgson is non-committal on whether Sunday's showdown is the biggest game of his 32-year coaching career.

'It feels like it now but I can remember a few games in the past that have felt the most important or vital,' he said.

'I was at Halmstads in 1976 when we became champions of Sweden for the first time in the club's history, winning a crucial match to gain the title.

'Going to bed the night before that game at the age of 29 felt like a bloody big game to me.

'I hadn't won too many championships as a player and my thought then was if I could just get one medal in the trophy cabinet. (they won 3-0).

'When I was with the Swiss national team we had to beat Estonia to reach the 1994 World Cup - the first World Cup they had actually qualified for.

'And of course there was the 1997 UEFA Cup final with Inter Milan.'

Fulham, who have won three of their last four matches, enter the final game at Fratton Park with a fully fit squad.