Hodgson, 75, determined to keep Palace in Premier League
In the 10 months since his last coaching job, it wasn’t unusual for Roy Hodgson to be stopped in the street and asked: “Are you enjoying your retirement?”
Yet Hodgson never felt like he was retired, even at the age of 75.
“I know my birth certificate tells me I am,” the former England coach said Thursday with a smile, “but the way I feel doesn’t really tell me that.”
So when Crystal Palace — the love of his soccer life — came calling, asking him to return to Selhurst Park on a short-term basis to help keep the club in the Premier League, Hodgson was never really going to decline the offer.
“I know very clearly what the project is, what the objective is, why I am here and what is expected of me,” said Hodgson, speaking publicly for the first time since returning to Palace. “Who knows? There might be another one that comes up.
“The thing is, I don’t actively seek them. That’s the thing. No one is out there on my behalf looking for these things.”
Hodgson was Palace manager from 2017-21 and preserved the team’s Premier League status each season. He couldn’t do the same when he was brought in by Watford on an emergency basis for the second half of last season, with its relegation with three games remaining leaving what Hodgson described as a “scar.”
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“I have to make certain that doesn’t happen again because I know what a painful and unpleasant experience it is for everyone,” he said. “But if anyone was to say, give us a guarantee, I’d say to them, ‘This is football.’ There are no guarantees. We are in a dogfight.”
Indeed, even Hodgson — one of the game’s longest-serving and well-traveled managers — has never seen a relegation scrap like the one brewing in the Premier League right now.
Palace is in 12th place in the 20-team league, only three points above the relegation zone with 10 games left. The bottom nine teams — from Palace all the way down to last-place Southampton — are separated by only four points.
“You certainly don’t have so many teams where people would say, ‘They can’t get relegated. They are too big a club to get relegated,’” Hodgson said.
Palace may just slot into that category. A team containing players such as talented forwards Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise and international center backs Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen has looked completely bereft of confidence, without a win in 13 games in all competitions in 2023.
That’s why Patrick Vieira was fired, even though Palace had just finished a tough run of games and was about to start a more benign schedule starting with Leicester at home on Saturday.
Hodgson’s first task is to lift the players’ heads.
“It’s so easy to let the black dog take over to some extent, and make you doubt all the things you think you were good at doing,” Hodgson said. “Really, our main task, as I see it, having taken over a group which is clearly stronger technically than the one we left behind, is to make certain those players don’t lose faith or think they are not capable.”
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