On the first anniversary of his appointment as Palace manager, Roy Hodgson has been reflecting on his 12 months in charge of the Eagles.
Hodgson picked up the reins of his hometown team last September despite being handed the tough task of revitalising a side that had lost their first four games of the campaign without scoring, which would eventually stretch to seven, but he admitted the attitude of the Eagles squad to adapt to his methods gave him cause for optimism.
Speaking to Palace TV, he said: “My first impression of the squad was quite positive, but I was coming in at a very difficult time. However, the players - despite the results and criticisms about playing seven games and scoring no goals - their attitude on the training field was good.
“We established a way of working, and we didn’t have any dissenters saying ‘we don’t like the way you’re asking us to play’, so it was just a question of chipping away day after day trying to improve our performances.”
Last season saw Hodgson not only overcome the seven-game handicap his team started their season with, but also deal with an unprecedented injury crisis that saw double digits of Palace players taking residence in the treatment room at the same time. Despite all these issues, he managed to secure safety with a game to spare, and eventually haul his team to an 11th-place finish thanks to a sterling end to the campaign.
“We knew if we keep the balance between wins, losses and draws and work steadily, by the time the spring came then we would be up there with the others, and the last six or seven games would decide if we would keep our heads above the water,” he added.
“We climbed quicker than we anticipated and we got out of the relegation zone by the Christmas period, but then came all the long-term injuries. It was difficult, but luckily we got some people back, not least of all Wilf and Ruben Loftus-Cheek and bringing that quality back into your teams makes a big difference.
“The standout performances would be the Manchester United game where we lost 3-2 with the wondergoal in the last minute, but the displays against a top team was very good. Both games against Leicester home and away were really good, and the Stoke game. That was a tough one as we weren’t 100% certain of maintaining our status and Stoke had to win, but our performance up there was as good as I could have expected it to be.”
This season began well with an opening day victory at Fulham to kick-start Hodgson’s 41st year as a manager in style, but three successive defeats have brought Palace back down to earth. However, as the Eagles boss begins his second year in the Selhurst dugout, he believes the blip will be overcome as his team have enough quality to cause even the Premier League’s elite cause for concern.
Reflecting on the season so far, he said: “It’s not been the start we wanted but the margins are small and the difference between us having three points or at least five are hair-fine, but that’s what we’ve got to come to terms with.
“In each and every game we play, we are capable of getting a result and we’re not out of the reckoning when it comes to getting a result, but we’re also not out of the reckoning when it comes to a defeat against the teams around you because the league is a very competitive one.”
To hear much more from Hodgson, including his memories of the crucial win over Chelsea last October, how he handled the injury crisis and being awarded the freedom of Croydon, watch the whole of his exclusive interview with Palace TV on YouTube.