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Mar 18, 2010

Hodgson the No.1 choice for England

Roy Hodgson has now confirmed his well earned position as the No.1 English contender to replace Fabio Capello as England manager after Fulham's 4-1 win over Juventus in the Europa League.

• Top comebacks in Europe
• Fulham 4-1 Juventus

The FA knows that Capello has always been a short-term option, one cycle of World Cup and possibly European Championship before his contract expires in 2012, but with a break off period this summer, it might be that the Italian moves on.

That would have normally caused a crisis at the FA, but (for once) they have a ready-made replacement in Hodgson.

Ironically, before Fulham's historic Europa League triumph over Juventus, Capello was linked with a move to Real Madrid in the summer, having already been the subject of fevered speculation that he would be heading to Juve.

The truth is that Capello hasn't made up his mind about his immediate future and, while he publicly declares his commitment to England, his position will be reviewed after the World Cup finals in South Africa when there are options on both sides to decide about the next two years.

Should Capello go sooner rather than later, then Hodgson is ticking all the boxes for the FA right now. If you conducted a poll of the power brokers at Wembley, Hodgson would be immediately appointed.

English football needs an English manager, but only if the English manager is the right manager.

After the first foreign coach in Sven-Goran Eriksson, the FA turned to Steve McClaren only after Big Phil Scolari said 'yes' and then changed his mind because of the media intrusion. Hodgson would be a safe pair of hands, but after what he has achieved at Fulham, he has suddenly become the inspirational figure that few thought he was capable of being.

Always highly regarded and vastly experienced, the man from Croydon has achieved wonders at Craven Cottage. Recruited by Mohammed Al-Fayed at a time of crisis in West London, and having survived relegation, Hodgson took the unfancied club to Europe, where they have performed miracles.

Having knocked out the holders of the UEFA Cup (Shakhtar Donetsk), and gone an early goal down at Craven Cottage against Juve, the bookies quoted 70-1 against Fulham pulling it off. Yet remarkably Hodgson masterminded arguably the greatest result and comeback in Fulham's history. Not against any old foreign foe either, but the third most successful club in European football history, the once mighty Old Lady.

While Clint Dempsey deserves praise for his brilliant chipped goal, the manager was the real hero for what he has done to transform this small friendly club by the Thames.

Others from the larger clubs may lay claim to the accolade of Manager of the Year, but this year there should be an exception, this time it should go to Hodgson, whose team will not be champions but they are certainly the People's Champions after this result.

Earlier in the season in an exclusive one-to-one interview with Al Fayed for Soccernet, the Harrods owner praised Hodgson to the hilt and suggested he had, at long last, found a manager whom he trusted and wouldn't have to sack.

After a long search for the right man, it would be tough luck on the Fulham chairman if he lost one of his top bosses to the FA, as he did before with Kevin Keegan. But while Jose Mourinho would always be the emotional choice for many, Hodgson would be the far more sensible one.

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