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Why Fulham's Roy Hodgson has Frank Sinatra to thank for his illustrious coaching career

Football fans have been deprived of managers using surprising analogies to explain themselves ever since Jose Mourinho waved goodbye to Stamford Bridge early last season. But just down the road in south-west London, Roy Hodgson is trying to spark a revival, writes Claire Harmer.

"No-one gives a monkeys about how Frank Sinatra feels during the week, or what he's been doing, or how he's been. All they care about is that when they've paid their money to see him perform, he'll sing like Frank Sinatra. And that's what we've got to do. We've got to get out there and perform."

An interesting parallel and one Hodgson fears he will soon have to adapt to bring in line with the times. Speaking to a small band of Fulham fans at an exclusive question and answer session at Craven Cottage, the head-coach waxed lyrical about the dedication of his players and his honed motivational techniques.

"One of the things we have practiced from the very first day is that to become a good team, you have to be good at your job and what ever happens, you've got to go out and perform and do that job. I've often raised that analogy in the past, and I'm finding it difficult now to find the right performer because Frank Sinatra is dead and the young players don't know who he was anyway!"

Having collected plenty of silverware in a managerial career spanning over 30 years and after keeping Fulham in the top flight, a feat that at one point last season looked nigh on impossible, Hodgson has proved his methodology works.

In a refreshingly honest and humorous encounter, no question was off limits as fans had a rare chance to offer up their most pondered queries. After a solid start to the season, with back-to-back home wins against Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers, Hodgson was at ease with his audience as he sat alongside the Cottagers' chief executive Alistair Mackintosh, happy to discuss any issue.

watch football

The evening took on a jovial tone almost from the outset, with a rousing applause following Hodgson's introduction to the room by BBC London's Tom Watt, acting as MC. "Wait to hear what I've got to say first 'cause you might not like it!" the former Inter Milan manager joked.

It's unlikely that there's much Hodgson could say that devotees of the club wouldn't want to hear. Still riding on the crest of a wave after dramatically enriching the club's fortunes following his arrival in January, he looks set to become something of a luminary for the Fulham faithful in the years to come.

When asked about Jimmy Bullard's recent England call-up, of which he said he was proud, Hodgson gave an enlightening glimpse in to how he sees his role at the club.

"I always tend to regard myself as a coach rather than a manager because on the continent, 'manager' has bad connotations. I'm a coach, someone who involves themselves in the tactics, the coaching and the training of the team on a daily basis - there's never a day when I'm not on the training ground."

Despite his vast experience, the 61-year-old retains his enthusiasm for the game, and hinted that even he might still have a bit to learn.

"I follow every ball and like a lot of managers of my generation, we live the game with an intensity which is sometimes hard to explain. I can feel quite drained after games, just by the intensity of watching. If I go to a game, I can get quite irritated if there are people sitting around me chatting and watching it from time to time, because I'm really a student of the game. I like to watch football and I'll talk in the half-time interval and afterwards."

get married

For fans of a club that retained its top-flight status only by goal difference and a nerve-wracking final day victory away to Portsmouth last season, a manager who is so dedicated to improving his already enormous wealth of knowledge is exactly what the doctor ordered. Having won six of nine matches from the final six fixtures of last season through to the first three of this, Fulham fans could be forgiven for letting their imaginations run wild. For the ever cautious Hodgson, however, ambitions should be handled with considerable caution.

"Ambitions can be a dangerous thing," he said. "For me, when I leave Fulham, I hope to leave a well established Premier League club. I don't allow my ambitions at the moment to stretch too far beyond that.

"Our goal is to make certain that we use the week's training in the best possible way to make sure that when the team goes out on a Saturday, they are physically and mentally prepared with the feeling they have got the ability to win the game.

"I would like to ensconce ourselves in the middle of the division without having the hair-raising escape of last season. If you flirt with relegation year after year, sooner or later you are going to get married! I would be very happy if we could stop flirting with relegation and get the team in a comfortable position. But it's a long-term objective."

With the club's future taking centre stage, matters turned to that of the academy, and which rising stars fans can look forward to seeing in the first team. Despite being a staunch advocate of youth development, Hodgson urged fans to be patient as he hoped the club could make head roads in the years to come.

inspirational figure

"You need time at a football club to really impose your ideas, particularly with regard to the academy. I always try to invest as much as I can of myself and my experience in to the football club and the academy, knowing full well that I might not be there to see the fruition of any rewards in four or five years time.

"Our academy at the moment is not in a good state, and that's not because of the coaches. I'm impressed with the staff we have working with the academy, they have good experience, they're good man-managers and have a good attitude in the way they approach the boys.

"It's not something that you're going to see improve in the short term. If you are going to do the job properly then you need to spend money on facilities and players. Certainly the top clubs spend quite a lot of money on scouting players of 16 and 17 years of age, placing them in their development squads and bringing them through.

"But we don't have enough raw talent coming through. The two players that have been produced in the last two years are already in our first team squad, Rob Milsom and Wayne Brown. They are the only two who we can see a clear future for.

"We have done more with the community programme, with kids from the local area. We work with them as best we can, but we are not necessarily getting the best players on offer. It's an area which I think is very important.

"It would be advantageous if we could produce players on a regular basis who had come through the ranks. Then I wouldn't have to go to the chairman, cap in hand, saying 'Would you please put your hand in your pocket once again and help us out?"

With Hodgson at the helm, the current crop of Fulham first-teamers look more than likely to improve on last term's last-gasp finish. And if he gets the chance to do it his way, there's every hope for Fulham's future too. Never mind Old Blue Eyes, next time he needs an inspirational figure to motivate his players, Hodgson could afford to look a lot closer to home.
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