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From a joke team to the great escape, all hail Roy Hodgson the miracle worker for his job at Crystal Palace

April 29, 2018 10:05 PM
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October 13, 2017, is not a date that will stand out for Crystal Palace supporters but it should. Quite possibly, this was the day their season turned on its head.

This was no time for jokes. Hodgson realised Palace had become one themselves as bookmakers were offering odds on them to go down in history as the Premier League's worst team.

It was the day before a London derby against Chelsea and the 70-year-old decided something had to be done, so he took training, then held a team meeting at Palace's Beckenham base.

According to one insider, he asked the players for their trust — something they had not shown his predecessor Frank de Boer. He also told them they should 'die' for the shirt or find the door.

The wake-up call worked. The next day, with Wilfried Zaha back in the side following injury, the Eagles beat Chelsea 2-1 at Selhurst Park. Suddenly, the great escape was on.

It culminated in this 5-0 win over Leicester City which leaves Palace as good as safe with two games to go. When asked how he pulled it off, Hodgson only wanted to praise his players.

'It's easier sometimes to be the one who prepares rather than the one who has to go out and give performances,' Hodgson said. 'For me, football will always be about the players.

If any manager was going to save Palace after a nightmare start, it was Roy. He took the players back to basics and is reaping the rewards.

When he came to Blackburn in 1997, the first thing he did was organise the back line and make us difficult to beat. For the first time in my career, we did lots of 11 v 11 work on the training pitch.

Everything was meticulous and none of us were left in any doubt as to our role.

Some of the spotlight should be on Hodgson too. When appointed, his age was brought up by a few critics. So too was the way he left England after their Euro 2016 exit.

'Well, it's a fair point,' continued Hodgson, who turns 71 in August. 'I'm not young. I feel young but I'm not young.

'The most important thing is I've got very good coaching staff who have helped me enormously. I've been blessed with a good group of players that were vilified after the first four games and they weren't exactly being feted after the next three, either.

Palace had five different goal-scorers on Saturday as Zaha, James McArthur, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Patrick van Aanholt and Christian Benteke — yes, even him — got in on the act.

They have two Premier League games left against Stoke City then West Bromwich Albion but can start to think about building for next season. Keeping Zaha would be very useful.

'The fact is, he is not going to stay because of my blue eyes,' Hodgson said. 'He is going to stay because he likes playing at Selhurst Park. He likes the club and he thinks this is the right place for him. A lot will depend on what offers come to the club.

This was embarrassing for Leicester. Claude Puel, a softly-spoken coach who looks like he would not say boo to a goose, should be concerned.


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