Speaking ahead of Crystal Palace's trip to Norwich City, Roy Hodgson was asked how much he enjoys the density of games around the festive period and responded with glowing praise for his squad.
He said: "I just relish being with the team, really. Especially a team I identify with as closely as this Crystal Palace team. They are so consistent in their approach: they are so professional, they are so hardworking, they are so reliable. [They have] all the qualities a manager or a coach is looking for in a group of players.
"It’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to train with them every day and it’s a pleasure to see them play at the weekend. I do enjoy that side of things."
However, the run of matches around Christmas has taken its toll on the team's fitness, with seven senior players missing Palace's most recent match with Southampton.
Hodgson discussed why he will be relieved to return to a normal schedule in the coming weeks.
"Like all managers and coaches - and when I say ‘managers,’ I regard myself more as a coach than an actual manager, I don’t spend my days in offices ringing round agents discussing what players are available on transfers, I spend my time on the field of play with the players - I think we enjoy it most when we play Saturday and then play the next Saturday and the next Saturday.
"Because that period of time in between - that’s your working time. That’s the time when you can actually work with the players: work on your shape, work on your tactics, work on what you want to see from them. At the moment we aren’t able to do that.
"We’re just patching people up and trying to make certain we don’t do anything in training which can make the situation in terms of slight strains or injuries even worse. I’ll be quite pleased when this period is over and we go back, when you can look after your players better and you can of course work on your game, which at the moment we haven’t been able to do for the last week or so."
Turning his attention specifically to the upcoming Norwich City game, Hodgson gave his opinion on the Canaries, saying: "They’re a good team, Norwich. I think they play some excellent football. They’ll be every bit as big of a test as West Ham and Southampton have been for us, I don’t doubt that for one minute.
"I have a lot of respect for Norwich, a lot of respect for the way they play. They find themselves at the wrong end of the table but I’ve seen on many occasions watching them play that their quality, their passing quality and their movement is as good as many, many teams above them in the league. For us, it will be very similar to coming here [St Mary’s]: a very, very tough ask but we’ll try and get ourselves in the right frame mentally and physically to confront that."