Posted: 4/30/2010


        He may not have run around the stadium like the self-proclaimed Portuguese Special One, but for me ROY HODGSON, the 62 English born coach of Fulham FC, is The Special One of the Season. It was The Cottagers 18th match of a long season in Europe, that started in Vilnius, Lithuania in late July 2009, and will finish at the NordBank Arena in Hamburg on May 12th.

        I once had the good fortune to chat for 30 minutes on the phone with this well travelled coaching maestro, and I was hoping that he would have been made manager of England after Kevin Keegan fell on his sword in 2000, but we had a Swede instead-adequate but only just that.  After pulling off a come-from- behind victory over HSV Hamburg at Craven Cottage, down by the riverside, next to the Thames, Hodgson quietly walked off the pitch, stopping to console his German opponents on the way to the tunnel.

       He is a thoughtful coach, born in London, with a fluency in German, Italian, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, English and more from his travels.  Halmstads, Bristol City, Viking, Orebro, Neuchatel Xamax, Internazionale, Malmo FF, FC Copenhagen, Blackburn Rovers,Grasshoppers, Udinese and  the national teams of Switzerland and Finland and UAE. There is even a Roy's Horna(Roy's Corner) at Swedebank Stadion in Malmo.

      "Stand up if you still believe" they chanted at The Cottage last night as a team that was seemingly doomed for relegation, revived in the league and in the Europa Cup under his stewardship. The have beaten Vetra, Amkar Perm,CSKA Sofia, Roma, Juventus, Shaktar Donetsk the holders, German champions Wolfsburg, FC Basle, HSV Hamburg and now face the conquerers of mighty Liverpool, Atletico Madrid.

     Hamburg had fired coach Bruno Labbadia on Monday morning after a humiliating 5-1 defeat in the Bundesliga to Hoffenheim last Saturday. They responded with a 35 yard goal from a free-kick by Petric to open the scoring, but Fulham didn't wilt. Bobby Zamora limped off in the 57th minute, but 12 minutes later Welshman Simon Davies equalised and it was game on. Another seven minutes  Zoltan Gera scored the winner and took the 131 year old club to their first European final in history. Coach of the Year? You bet.

     Diego Forlan, who flopped at Old Trafford, but has been a match winner in Spain, put Liverpool out despite their 2-1 victory at Anfield, on away goals. In the more glamorous Champions League final in Madrid's Bernabeau for the 'Big Ears' trophy, there will be no team from Mars, as Jose Mourinho described defending champions Barcelona. Barca couldn't overcome a 3-1 defeat in the Allianz Arena to FC Bayern. It is 50 years since Inter won in Europe and the special one is determined to bring the trophy back to Lombardy, where they have so often been overshadowed by their arch rivals AC Milan.