Soccer News Sat, 18 Dec 2010

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

the team.

“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

with goals.”

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 .