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First Team

Lewington On His Eagles Return

25 September 2017

Ray Lewington's appointment as Assistant Manager under Roy Hodgson has seen the return of the Lambeth born coach to SE25. He first arrived at Palace as assistant manager to Alan Smith during the 1994/95 campaign before helping Steve Coppell win promotion back to the Premier League two years later.

As is normal at this period of the season he has come in with three games to play in a short space of time and is now looking forward to this week where he can spend time out on the training pitch with the players.

In amongst the disappointing results he has been able to pull on the positives that he has seen in the couple of weeks since his arrival. 

"It has been a hectic couple of weeks as we have already had three games so there has been a lot to fit into a short period of time but it is great to back and I am looking forward to working with everyone here once again.

"People remind us of the stat that we haven't scored a goal but we know that there is enough in our squad and just seeing the lads in training it's clear that we have players here with enough threat in front of goal and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be too long before the goals start coming along.

"Fans will have seen in the games we have had that there have been chances and it is not a situation where we are not creating opportunities. We are working in training on changing our approach a little, we do get set in the way of always hitting the big centre forward so we need to look at ways of having other options but there is enough here to suggest we can start to change that”

Ray is the first to admit he is at home out on the training pitch trying to put across the new ideas for the lads to take into games and we asked for some examples of changes that he could highlight which the managment team have worked on with the players over the last couple of weeks. 

"As a coach it is always very difficult when you come into a club because there are so many things you want to touch on, for example after the game against Southampton we had to work on closing the opposition down more than we did in that game and also pass forward in the game more. Looking back at that match there was a lot of negative passing where we took the easy option so the message needed to be to the the lads that we want to pass the ball forward more.

"As a consequence when you pass forward things start to happen and I think in the first half against Huddersfield Town in the cup game some of our play was really nice to watch and we created one or two opportunities so that was encouraging and I do believe with more time out on the training pitch with the lads we will continue to get better."

In 2005 he joined Fulham as reserve team manager and it was there that he would work with Hodgson for the first time, who promoted him to be his assistant. The pair enjoyed great success together at Craven Cottage, helping Fulham to a seventh-place finish in the Premier League as well as a Europa League final in 2010.

Two years later when Hodgson was handed the England manager’s job, Ray was the natural choice to be his right-hand man and he revealed the reasons why they both work well together.

"We are both coaches and believe the majority of work should be done out on the training pitch with the players, nowadays there is a school of thought that other issues should play a more major part but we are old fashioned and believe that if something is wrong the place to put it right is out on the training pitch, it can’t always be done but you can certainly have a good go at putting it right.

"We have known each other a long time, Roy actually took me for my preliminary coaching badge when I was 18 and thankfully he passed me at that stage and then over the years when I was at Chelsea he used to come down and Dave Sexton was the manager at that time, who was a big draw for upcoming coaches  as he was regarded as one of the best. So we used to see Roy quite a lot down there. I knew him but not really well until he came to Fulham and we had the chance to discuss our coaching philosophy and fortunately we have worked together since then."

Looking back on his time at Palace he achieved promotion through the play-offs to the top flight with a late winner from David Hopkin, against Sheffield United in the late nineties, just 12 months after the club suffered the disappointment of losing to a last minute goal against Leicester City in the final match of the season which was to make the celebrations in '97 much sweeter.  

"A highlight for me would have to be David Hopkin’s goal in the play-off final against Sheffield United in 1997 after having the disappointment the year before of losing in the last minute of extra time. I can remember writing out the penalty list on the bench in the defeat against Leicester as it looked like it was going to penalties so I didn’t actually see their winning goal.  We had the heartbreak of that day followed by the ecstasy of going up to the Premier League a year later.

"David is one of my favourite players that I have ever coached; I loved the way he trained and he has a great personality. His goal really topped that day off and probably more so because we went into the game as the outsiders whereas 12 months ago we were the favourites against Leicester City," recalled Lewington as he discussed mixed emotions at Wembley Stadium. 

Ray undertook the role as assistant manager in three major international tournaments alongside Hodgson and looking back at his time at Palace he is delighted to see two former Eagles he worked with on the training pitch in those days, Chris Coleman and Gareth Southgate, now experiencing life managing their country. 

"It's always lovely to see players that you have coached coming through and both are terrific lads but very different individuals. Chris was outgoing, a funny lad but also a very good player whereas Gareth was more serious and studious but both were always interested in the coaching side of the game so it’s fantastic to see the level they are both managing at now." 

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