When Hodgson took over in September 2017, Palace had made the slowest of starts to the campaign. After four defeats without scoring, the manager’s job was as much psychological as it was tactical early on.
“We were a wounded team when I came in,” he says. “Some players had been sent away from the first-team to train with the Under-23s, players that I wanted to use.
“The first thing to do was to try and make certain that they realised that we were a group that needed to work very closely together. We needed to work after a set pattern.
“We were facing games against Manchester City and Manchester United, which were very hard to get points from, so we were staring down the barrel of at least six defeats at that time. It was important to get their minds focused; whatever happens, even if seven games go by and we don’t get the points we need, there are still an awful lot of games left.
“In those 31 games we’re going to have to play the type of football which suits us, which gets the best out of us, and which gives us at least a fighting chance to get some points on the board.”
Hodgson had already masterminded one great escape, across the capital at Craven Cottage, and he was keen to avoid a similarly late surge.
“I had the experience with Fulham,” he recalls, “where we had to wait until the very last games of the season to pick up the points we needed to stay in the league. I said to the players: ‘If the worst happens, that’s what we’ll have to do again. But hopefully we’ll get enough points beforehand to avoid that scenario.”