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oy Hodgson sees no reason why Danny Murphy cannot continue to play at the top level for many seasons – but warned against expecting the Fulham captain to “hit the ground running” on his return to action from a knee injury against CSKA Sofia tonight.

The 32-year-old former Liverpool midfielder is set to feature for the first time since mid-October as the Cottagers look to keep alive hopes of qualifying from the Europa League group stages.

Murphy, capped nine times by England, has enjoyed a new lease of life since moving across London from Tottenham two years ago.

Hodgson declared: “He has been excellent in every respect. Danny has been a very good captain, as well as a great playmaker, his passing is good and he helps the game flow. Even during these two years he has certainly got better.

I can see him going on for a good few more years. It is just a question of how he can keep himself away from injury. His fitness levels will remain constant for the next few years: the worry is what effect injuries have. But if, touch wood, he stays clear of that he can play for a long time.”

The Fulham boss cautioned against expecting immediate fireworks in the crunch clash against the Bulgarians tonight.

The first thing Danny has to do is to get back to match fitness. He won’t come straight back and hit the ground running, he needs the match practice. Whether he plays on Sunday depends on how he does against Sofia – I have other options for the Sunderland game, which I can’t use on Thursday. But Danny is looking forward to it. He is mechanically fit and wants to get back in the saddle.