Pantsil owes Roy Hodgson but ....
..... is hoping to turn the tables and teach him a
John Pantsil is quick to acknowledge the debt he owes to Roy Hodgson who, over
the past two seasons at Fulham, coached the Ghanaian into becoming one of the
Premier League's most effective attacking right-backs.
Pantsil was signed as a makeweight in the £6.3 million deal with West Ham that
brought Bobby Zamora to Fulham in the summer of 2008. However, his contribution
to Hodgson's squad reaching the Europa League Final and finishing a club record
seventh in the Premier League was to prove just as valuable as that offered by
the England striker.
Now ahead of Fulham's testing visit to Anfield tomorrow, Pantsil is aiming to
turn those skills honed by Hodgson against his former manager and his Liverpool
“Roy transformed my game,” said the 29-year-old. “In the Premier League you have
to be intelligent. You have to be mentally strong going into a game. Roy taught
me this. He was very good at explaining how he wanted me to play in my position,
how he wanted me to tackle, how he wanted me to keep my shape with the rest of
“I could always go to Roy, one-on-one, to talk about any problems I had, and how
my performances were going. He was like a father to me, and everyone else. But
I'm not going to forget all that just because I'm now playing against Roy. I
have to use all that he taught me to help my team. What is important is my club,
nothing else. We need to go to Liverpool, make a good impact, and get a good
“Friendship will always be there but not on the pitch. After the game is when we
can shake hands.”
Pantsil, who is also set to come up against former team-mate Paul Konchesky, has
a double incentive to inspire goal-shy Fulham to their first away win of the
He is desperate to see the team escape the threat of being drawn into a
relegation dogfight. And he also wants to convince new manager Mark Hughes he
deserves an extension to his contract that runs out in June.
A cult hero at the Cottage, where he laps the pitch applauding the crowd after
every draw or win, Pantsil said: “Being separated from the relegation zone only
by goal difference is not a position Fulham should be in.
“If you look at the players we have, and the kind of manager we've got, we don't
deserve to be where we are. We are supposed to be in the top nine or 10, and we
believe we can achieve that by the end of the season. We just need to switch
Pantsil, dropped by Hughes five games into the campaign, made a successful
comeback off the bench against Birmingham three weeks ago when his entrance onto
the pitch was greeted with a standing ovation by the Fulham faithful who have
always appreciated the player's tireless commitment. Pantsil hopes Hughes is
coming to appreciate it, too. This footballing nomad, who plied his trade in
Ghana, Poland, and Israel before landing in England, said: “I feel like Fulham
is now my home. When I first came here I said to myself I'd like to finish my
career here. My team-mates are fantastic guys, and I love the fans. I'd like to
Alas, the form guide suggests that Pantsil might struggle to make his case
against a Liverpool side that has lost just once at home in the League this
season and which has not been beaten by Fulham in 29 meetings at Anfield.
Hodgson, like Pantsil, will place sentiment to one side tomorrow. He said: “It
was a bit of a wrench, really, to leave. But a job like the one at Liverpool
doesn't come along every day and I was lucky that the people at Fulham
understood this is something that I should do and really wanted to do.
“I'm sorry to say I shall probably be railing against decisions and complaining
about things just as much when Fulham are the opponents as any other team for
whom I've got no time at all.”
Hodgson added that he was expecting an “intensive” match, even though Fulham
have not won in 26 away games in the Premier League.
Despite that deficient record Hughes insisted: “We don't go to Anfield with any
fear or apprehension. We know we can perform at the highest level. What we need
is that break, that little bit of fortune, that enables good play to be rewarded
Fulham will again be without striker Moussa Dembele who has yet to recover from
an ankle injury but Zamora is running in training for the first time since
breaking his leg three months ago and is on target .