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One of the pleasant surprises of this season has been Chris Baird morphing into a very tidy central midfielder. Perhaps we shouldn’t be all that astonished considering that Baird has filled this role with distinction for Northern Ireland in the past but he solved a real headache for Roy Hodgson at a time when injuries threatened to ravage the Fulham squad.

Just last night, I was talking with two Fulham fans who both felt that Baird offered a hell of a lot more in the holding role than Dickson Etuhu. They also felt that Baird isn’t as limited as Etuhu and could probably do more than just drop anchor in the middle of the park. His range of passing was something I commented on after the Roma home game and we should also reflect on just how well Baird’s come back from a nightmare first six months at the Cottage, when some Fulham fans were getting on the back of their own player.

Hodgson’s certainly been impressed with the manner in which Baird has taken his chance.

I think he’s got a lot of competition for that place, he knows that. The fact that he’s a utility man gives him more chance of playing than if he only had one position he could play in.

At the moment, since he’s come into that role he’s done extremely well alongside Jonathan Greening and Danny Murphy. Now he’s making it harder for Dickson Etuhu and Kagisho Dikgacoi to break into the team.

We’ve used a lot of players this year. There are a lot of players taking part who hardly got a look in last year. We’ve needed the squad and with all the games we’ve got, we’re still going to need them. Whilst people like Chris Baird are playing so well it’s a great advantage for me because I know that I’ve got good players battering the door down to get into the team.

Hodgson picks up on Baird being singled out when he was playing in the wrong position under Lawrie Sanchez too.

I think he was harshly and perhaps unfairly judged before, playing at a time when things weren’t going well for the Club, playing in a position [right-back] which is arguably his least favourite position. He can play at right full-back but his more favoured positions would be centre back or in central midfield.

Unfortunately when the team was being tarred with a somewhat negative brush, a lot of the tar stuck on him. Since I’ve worked with him he’s always impressed me with his ability and the things he can do. It’s just great that, due to an injury, he got his chance and he’s grabbed it with both hands.

I’d like to think that during the two years we’ve worked together his game is perhaps better now than it was two years ago – but you’d have to ask him that. But it’s certainly not changed to the extent that he’s gone from someone who was a very poor player into a good player. He’s always been a good player, now he’s getting the chance to show it.

Long may it continue.