Fulham defender John Paintsil owes Roy Hodgson but is hoping to turn the tables and teach him a lesson
John Paintsil 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.
Paintsil 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, Paintsil is aiming to turn those skills honed by Hodgson against his former manager and his Liverpool side.
“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 result.
Paintsil, 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 season.
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, Paintsil 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 on.”
Paintsil, 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.
Paintsil 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 stay.”