Thursday 14 November 2019

Hard start at Fulham gives Roy Hodgson belief Palace can survive drop

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson knows he has a hard job on his hands
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson knows he has a hard job on his hands

Roy Hodgson's challenging start to his reign as Fulham manager has given him the conviction he will succeed at Crystal Palace.

The 70-year-old's first fixture at his latest club, against Southampton on Saturday, ended in a 1-0 defeat and is to be followed by meetings with Huddersfield, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in the coming weeks.

They became the first ever top-flight team to lose each of its opening five league fixtures without scoring, and also surpassed Newcastle's record wait of 438 minutes for a first Premier League goal of the season, which had dated back to the 2005/06 season.

Amid that backdrop and the impressive form of City, United and Chelsea, it seems likely that run will be extended to eight defeats from eight, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's Carabao Cup third round against Huddersfield.

Hodgson lost his first three league matches with Fulham, against Chelsea, West Ham and Arsenal, after his appointment in December 2007, but he regardless inspired them to survival on the season's final day, and he said: "We lost the first three.

"It was a similar sort of thing: Arsenal, those type of teams.

"Don't forget at Fulham we got out of the relegation zone on the very, very last game of the season with a win at Portsmouth, so we lived with that hanging over our heads for a very long time, and we were greatly helped by the fans. The fans at the moment still believe this is going to change overnight, and are beginning to realise it won't.

"I've obviously been told from the club's point of view that survival's everything; that it would be unthinkable that we go down, and we're going to work during the months ahead to make sure it doesn't happen.

"In the Premier League, more and more, it's getting that way: the money increases every year, the gap between the money in the Premier League and in the Championship gets wider; it's harder when you go down to get up every year. I'm afraid we're going to be one of those clubs like everyone else: every day we're in the relegation zone, we're going to be concerned about the future.

"Me saying 'Don't worry, we'll be okay'. It's fine to do those things, and who wouldn't do that? But I still think we will be okay, and we'll work to be okay, and this group of players will follow me and the others to make sure we're okay. But it won't be by the end of October; possibly, it might be quite a long way forward."

For Southampton the match was significant for the return, off the substitutes' bench, of Virgil van Dijk following his near summer-long attempts to leave, but his fellow defender Maya Yoshida does not expect him to instantly return to the starting XI.

"Realistically he has not played for eight months so it is not easy to come back and just play," he said. "He will need a little bit of time. There is no guarantee of anyone being in the team."

PA Media

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