Roy Hodgson fears Fulham’s lap of honour after the vital victory against relegation rivals Birmingham was premature – but the veteran boss will have every right to launch a full-on celebration if they complete a remarkable escape from the drop with a win at Portsmouth.
A fortnight ago, with Birmingham leading Liverpool and his side two down at Manchester City, Hodgson and Fulham faced a bleak future.
But a remarkable Fulham comeback to win at Eastlands, combined with Liverpool taking a point at St Andrews, threw Hodgson a lifeline that his side grabbed gratefully with that win over Birmingham at an ecstatic Craven Cottage.
Now Hodgson, a 60-year-old football nomad, can add to his list of achievements in a career that has taken him around Europe by writing his name in Fulham history.
It may not be his crowning glory as a coach, after all he led Swedish side Malmo to five consecutive championships and two Swedish Cups and then guided the Swiss national team to the 1994 World Cup finals and Euro 96.
He went on to take Inter Milan to the 1997 Uefa Cup final before a mixed spell at Blackburn, where an excellent first season was followed by the sack in his second.
He has never quite found full appreciation in his home country, despite a reputation as a shrewd tactical operator and a coaching brain that has been well picked by his contemporaries in the last decade.
Now, however, he is presented with the opportunity to polish that reputation at the latter end of his time in the game.
Hodgson skirts around the question of whether he now faces the biggest game of his 32-year coaching career, saying: “It feels like it now but I can remember a few games in the past that have felt the most important or vital.
“I was at Halmstads in 1976 when we became champions of Sweden for the first time in the club’s history, winning a crucial match to gain the title. Going to bed the night before that game at the age of 29 felt like a very big game to me.
“I hadn’t won too many championships as a player and my thought then was if I could just get one medal in the trophy cabinet and we won 3-0.
“When I was with the Swiss national team we had to beat Estonia to reach the 1994 World Cup – the first World Cup they had actually qualified for. And of course there was the 1997 Uefa Cup final with Inter Milan.”
Hodgson arrived at Fulham in late December after the sacking of Lawrie Sanchez, with chairman Mohamed Al Fayed ignoring the claims of younger candidates such as John Collins to plump for the widely-respected Englishman who is revered in Uefa coaching circles.
The task of turning Fulham around looked beyond him until the recent revival, but to his credit Hodgson placed his hopes of recovery on a passing style that some felt was unsuited to the relegation dogfight.
He ignored the conventional wisdom about the need to scrap your way out of trouble and stuck to firmly-held principles.
He explained ahead of the clash at Portsmouth: “You coach according to how you think the players you have should be best used.
“For the players we have, the way we play is the best way to use them. If, for example, we had Peter Crouch with some other 6ft 4in centre forward, then maybe our best way of playing would be to hit much longer balls.
“I don’t believe one style is better than another. It’s all football. The fans, though, do seem to appreciate the fact that we are able to pass the ball around.”
Hodgson has harnessed the composure of veteran Danny Murphy in midfield and this, coupled with the return from injury of key duo Jimmy Bullard and Brian McBride, has proved the catalyst for recovery.
Now the man with years of experience around the world, and the measured approach that comes with such a pedigree, must pull off one more result at Fratton Park to go down in Fulham folklore.
Then he may feel Fulham deserve to celebrate in a manner fitting for such a stunning comeback.