Roy Hodgson must've thought he had seen and experienced it all during his broad and successful managerial career. However, the current coronavirus pandemic has thrown the world into difficult and strange times.
Across a wide-ranging interview with Sky Sports' David Jones via Zoom, Hodgson talked through how he and the squad are coping with the current situation, his time with the Eagles and career highlights, plus plenty more.
You can now read below what Hodgson said during the 20-minute interview.
How have you found dealing with the players during lockdown?
The ideal contact of course will come that day when we can meet up at the Training Ground in whatever form that is likely to take. Any other form of contact is nothing comparable.
It will be nice to see them and it will also be very nice to see all the players have taken their work so seriously and have been working so very, very hard to stay fit during this time.
I think I speak for everyone in football when I say that we can’t wait to get back and to see them all in a training environment.
How do you reflect on where you’re right now with Crystal Palace?
I’ve been very pleased with the season – in fact I’ve been very pleased with the three seasons – I’ve got a very good group of players; I’m very fortunate that we have a very experienced group of players.
They definitely know what they’re good at and what they need to be good at in order to win football matches and to keep the club in the league, which is of course a major consideration.
I’m always a bit concerned when people talk about trying to prepare training sessions weeks or months in advance. It seems to me, when you’re working with a group of players, there are a lot of things you can’t legislate for – you just have to wait until the day comes.
I’ve never really prepared sessions weeks or months in advance. I think you always have to take into consideration external factors – not least of all the weather and maybe the fact the session you wanted to do is going to be missing several key players through injury.
All I know is that when I do get back there is going to be so much work to do and the players will be so anxious to get back and do that. I have no fears it will go well.
Where would you put this Crystal Palace experience in terms of your career?
You have to be careful when you try to rank experiences in your life, let alone your coaching or playing career, because it seems to me always that the further back you go, the better things seemed to have been.
One is always more critical of a current period than you would have been in a period 30 or 40 years ago because unfortunately you only remember the good times.
But I am very satisfied, even proud of the job that not only I but the coaching staff and in particular the players and the whole of club have done to make certain that we managed to keep Crystal Palace in the league, because it is not easy as everybody knows.
We haven’t spent an awful lot of money in that time, we haven’t stayed in the league by splashing the cash. We’ve done it by working very hard and getting together a very good group of players and believing in them.
What are your career highlights?
I think I would prefer to think of my career as periods of time rather than individual highlights. The individual highlights are what adds spice to your career but they don’t really define your career.
I think the defining moments for me where obviously the first job [Halmstad]: thrown in as a 28-year-old with many senior players who were older than myself and achieving the sort of success I was able to achieve there.
Moving on to Malmo with five years of continued success with quite a few really good moments - European football interspersed with the league football.
Then of course I’d have to go to Switzerland, which was another very good period. And strangely enough I didn't honestly think when I came back to England 12 years ago that these 12 years could be anything like they’ve been, because they really have been fantastic: first with Fulham, then Liverpool, West Brom and crowning that with the England job. And then getting the job at Crystal Palace.
I think it is really very, very difficult for me – although this is a longwinded answer – to give you the answer which would encapsulate a career but I’m certain that when I look back there will be individual moments that I’ll remember.
Sometimes I get reminded of them, recently there was an anniversary of a Fulham victory against Juventus. I was able to watch the tape again and remind myself of what happened in the game and they’re wonderful moments when someone presents you with that opportunity.
How has English football changed?
I’d go back to Blackburn Rovers for that. There has been an incredible improvement in the sport science and medical side of the game.
There has been an incredible improvement, in my opinion as well, in players’ basic professionalism. There was still, to some extent in the late 90s, a little residue if you’d like from the drinking culture and ‘football training isn’t important, it is just what you do on a Saturday afternoon’ there was residue of that – it certainly wasn’t anything it was like in the earlier days.
Now I think the players are so unbelievably professional and they’re so well-trained and physically conditioned to play the matches and they have so much help from the members of staff which really weren’t available.
If you take Blackburn for example, I had just come from Inter [Milan] where of course that side of things was given more attention and I brought with me a fitness coach, who only worked part-time, as he wasn’t at matches. He was a teacher who would come three to four times a week. But at that time there were very few clubs who would even have a full-time fitness coach, whereas today the players are enormously well looked after in that area and you see it on the field of play.
What are the biggest challenges of modern management?
That’s worth a chapter in itself.
I think one of the most important things will always be to establish that respect. You’ve got to work very hard when you go to a new club to gain people’s respect – and if you’re going to want that then you’ve certainly got to give it back.
I don’t think you get it instantly. And you can only get it if you show you know what you’re doing and you know that the work you’re putting before them is going to pay dividends. You’re able sell that idea to them and convince them that is this the way we are going to work. It is a professional way and we respect you as professionals and we work on the basis that you share our ideas and our hopes to get results when we go out to play.
I think it has become easier, to some extent, these days. I think there was a time going way back when people weren’t really interested so much in that. They just wanted training to be fun and just to get on with it because when Saturday comes around: don’t worry about it; we will sort it all out ourselves on the field.
Nowadays, players demand more from their coaches and managers. They expect to have training sessions that are on organisation, they expect them to have a staff around them that work together to put them in the best possible position to play.
They expect to be treated properly. They don’t expect to be told this is what you do just because I’ve been given the job. They expect to be told what you expect from them and why, and be helped along the way to find the solutions themselves in the practices you put on.
All of these things have always been there, if you like, but today with the players we are dealing with, they’re demanding more and more of us.
Crystal Palace: The oldest professional football club in the world formed 186121 April 2020
What do you say to people saying that because Palace are in a comfortable position in the Premier League and they’ve got nothing to play for?
If you’re involved in football as a football player or a football coach then there is always something to play for. It’s what keeps us going. Even if sometimes you wake up dreading the game ahead, you still wake up longing for it in the same way.
It’s what keeps us going through all the training sessions, the hard work and the preparation is that we’ve got a game at the end to look forward to.
That’s the major crux of the matter: having that game to look forward to and I think everyone in football, if all goes well, we’d like to finish the season. We have got plenty to play for. We are level 10th – I know we are 11thbut I prefer to say: level 10th – so we have got something to play for.
If we can get into the top 10 and cement are position there that would be an even better season for us.
Most of all, we are football people, we are passionate about the game and we can’t really wait to get back playing again in whatever way the authorities and the government decide they will allow us to.