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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 12, 2008

Hodgson fears another relegation battle

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has warned his players to curtail their survival celebrations as they have plenty of hard work ahead of them to avoid a Premier League relegation scrap next season.

Hodgson does not want another nailbiting campaign at the wrong end of the division and is hoping he can build a team which will be in a comfortable midtable position.

The former Inter Milan, Blackburn, Switzerland and Finland boss plotted Fulham's incredible route to safety thanks to four wins in the last five matches - including yesterday's 1-0 success at Portsmouth which sealed survival.

'We have to make certain in the summer that we've got a stronger platform next season,' said Hodgson. 'The last thing we need is to find ourselves fighting from the offset trying to get out of the bottom three.

'We've given ourselves a chance to build that platform but a lot of hard work is going to have to be done to make sure it is built.

'Everyone at the club deserves this success we've had in the last few weeks and now we've got a couple of days to enjoy it but soon we have to get down to the hard work of making sure we are equipped to carry it on.

'It will always be tough trying to compete with the major powers of the Premier League.

'We all know there is a big gap in class between the top teams and the middle of the table - let alone the bottom section.

'But I've always thought that if we get a decent run at it, we can establish Fulham as a decent middle-of-the-table side at least.'

In effect, the manager is asking chairman Mohammed Al Fayed to prepare himself for another huge investment in Fulham's future - having handed former boss Lawrie Sanchez around £20million at the start of the season and then about £10million more to Hodgson when he took over in December.

Hodgson knows many of his players will need to be replaced if Premier League stability is to be achieved.

Al Fayed, whose club will again benefit from huge television payments of around £30million a season, wants to see Hodgson stay in charge and keep Fulham in the country's elite competition 'for many years'.

Before the vital game at Fratton Park, he insisted: 'My own commitment to the club is as strong as it has ever been in the 10 years I've been chairman.'

Hodgson, 60, paid tribute to his players and coaching staff for their hard work, adding: 'I think we've done it by playing football and getting results we deserve rather than results we've stolen or sneaked.

'I'm so pleased for the club. I'm so pleased for Mohamed Al Fayed. The fans have been fantastic. Last week, when we beat Birmingham, you would have thought we were at Anfield.'

Hodgson now has to decide his plans for next season, which remarkably may include involvement in the UEFA Cup.

Despite just beating the drop, the London side could be in Europe by finishing the highest-placed side in the Premier League's own fair play table not to have qualified by other means.

Manchester City had been the favourites to land England's bonus place in the competition but they had skipper Richard Dunne sent off in their 8-1 final-day thrashing at Middlesbrough.

An announcement will be made later this week or next week, but the Fulham players are just savouring Premier League survival for the time being.

Danny Murphy, whose 76th-minute goal at Portsmouth completed the great escape, said: 'We've been well written off. No one gave us a chance. So it's a great feeling and a wonderful achievement.

'The style of football that we've played has been excellent considering the pressure we've been under and the manager deserves credit for that.

'Another big factor was Jimmy Bullard and Brian McBride coming back later in the season (after injuries) and the manager encouraging us to play more football than we were earlier on.

'For the last few weeks, we've not played like a team in the relegation zone. We've played higher than that.'

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