Speaking following Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw with Southampton this afternoon, Eagles manager Roy Hodgson reflected on a ‘wondrous’ 2019 that has seen the club push from near the relegation zone to enjoying their second-strongest Premier League start ever.
Hodgson was full of praise for his injury-hit squad and was asked if they can continue to perform ‘miracles.’ He said: “They are an incredible bunch, I’m so proud of them. It’s been a wondrous 2019 in actual fact because we weren’t doing well in 2018/19. Come Christmas we were very close to the relegation zone.
“I don’t have the details but I’ve got a distinct memory that we were looking over our shoulder concerned about relegation and then we had an excellent spring from January through which lifted us up almost into the top 10. And here we are having taken 27 points from the first 20 games. 2019 has been very good for us. We must now put that away and make certain we keep fighting.”
Turning his attention to the injury crisis which sees Hodgson’s squad without seven first-team players, the manager said: “It’s all very well to talk about injuries and people do but not too many people have seven players [injured], all of whom are in the first-team. The only one you could say maybe hasn’t played so much is Scott Dann but the other six are all players who probably would have played today had we had them available.
“We’re not talking about players who are bit-part players, we’re talking about regular first-teamers and as a result of course we had a bench with three Under-23s who haven’t played [in the league]. We have Connor Wickham who’s not played in three years from the start, Victor Camarasa who’s not started a game as yet and then we have Cheikhou Kouyate who ends up on the field.”
Despite the struggle his squad is facing, Hodgson expressed a great deal of pride for his charges, saying: “I know one thing: whatever team we put out [v Norwich City], however well we succeed in patching them up or maybe in one or two instances not patching them up, those players who go out there with a Crystal Palace shirt on will definitely give their all, like today.
“[Jairo] Riedewald played his first full game. He’s been with me two or three years, Jairo, and I think that’s his fourth or fifth [start] in the first-team. [He was] fantastic. Martin Kelly, injured, playing right-back [and he is a] centre-back really. [James] McCarthy, only his second full game from the start. Max Meyer hasn’t really played very much in the season so far.
“Yet they go out there and I don’t think any of you would have been looking at them saying: ‘Good God, what the hell is this player doing on the field?’ And that’s what I’ll find against Norwich. Whoever goes out there, one of them might even be an Under-23. I’ll have to trust them to do their job.”
You can watch Hodgson's post-match reaction in full alongside player reactions and highlights of the Saints game for free via Palace TV. Head there by clicking here or 'Palace TV' in the official app.