Coaches endorse Aussie tours

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Melbourne colleague Ernie Merrick have both endorsed more European teams basing their pre-seasons in Australia after the Cottagers outclassed Melbourne 3-0 in an entertaining friendly at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Melbourne colleague Ernie Merrick have both endorsed more European teams basing their pre-seasons in Australia after the Cottagers outclassed Melbourne 3-0 in an entertaining friendly at Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

Three top-flight British teams, Wolves, Fulham and Celtic are all in Australia this week playing pre-season friendlies against Hyundai A-League opposition in a boost for football in Australia ahead of the domestic season which starts on August 6.

Hodgson, whose team will complete its three-match tour with a clash against Perth on Wednesday, said he couldn't have been happier with how preparations have gone during the training camp and warm-up matches.

Fulham bounced back from a first-up loss to the Gold Coast to easily defeat Melbourne, but Hodgson described the match as extremely competitive and a great preparation for the club's Europa Cup campaign which begins at the end of the month.

"So far it's been a very worthwhile exercise. We wouldn't get this quality of games, this early on in our pre-season under normal circumstances. To be honest, we wouldn-t seek this quality of game so early in the pre-season, so competitive, with teams that are so fit and organised. We'd probably start with much easier opposition and build up," the Fulham manager said.

"But we've got a compromised pre-season ourselves this season, because we've got to be ready on the 30th of July, which is a good two weeks earlier than we would normally be ready. It-s been a great exercise, we've been very well treated, the training facilities and the way we've been looked after on the Gold Coast has been quite outstanding,"

"We've played two very competitive games in front of good crowds and it-s a great experience for some of the younger players. Today they were able to go on when we were in a strong position and show some qualities themselves."

Merrick said that fact that European clubs now considered Hyundai A-League clubs as suitable quality for proper warm-up games was a sign of the respect that Australian football was now held around the world.

"I go back 30 years and remember teams coming out here like West Ham and they'd have a big drink the night before and the assistant coach had to play. AC Milan at Princes Park, where they stopped the game with 10 minutes to go so they could get on a plane," he said.

"They really had no respect for Australian football and now you've got team like Wolves and Fulham and Celtic and Juventus coming out and looking for games in Australia so I think it speaks volumes for how far our game's come. It's great to get Fulham out here."

Merrick said the important aspect was that both teams had plenty to gain from playing these types of games with the Hyundai A-League clubs needing a good test just four weeks out from the start of their season.

He said that the 3-0 result from a match where Melbourne was dominant for much of the first half, was a good reminder to his players of the need to finish their chances.

"It's not very often you come off after losing 3-0 and say we played some good football there. Having said that, it was a good reality check, the game's about scoring goals and you can dominate possession, you can play some quality balls through, but if you don-t finish it off, you are not going to win games, he said.

"Against a team with the quality of Fulham, an English Premier League side, if you make a mistake you are going to pay for it."