Roy Hodgson is back once more as manager of Crystal Palace. It is not easy to give up your favourite ‘drug’
Roy Hodgson has been here before, and it did not end well. When he departed Crystal Palace two years ago, he announced his retirement from management, too. “I've seen so many people retire with all the fanfare blazing only to surface again somewhere in a fairly short period of time,” he said. “I'd prefer not to do that.”
Yet he did, emerging at Watford a few months later. He took over from Claudio Ranieri in January with the team 19th in the Premier League, and left them in May with the team still 19th in the Premier League, relegated after collecting only two wins from 18 games in charge.
This time it really was the end, he promised. “I don’t think I shall be putting my name forward anymore for further sorties in the world of Premier League football. It’s a very demanding world and I think I’ve earnt the right to step back and enjoy some free time and spend some time with my wife and son.”
He might stay involved in football but “it certainly won't be in charge of a Premiership team. I think that’s my swansong on that one”.
And yet Hodgson is back once more as manager of Crystal Palace. It is not easy to give up your favourite drug.
The goals and the wins release dollops of dopamine that are hard to replace. Having a healthy bank balance does not fill the space once taken up by competition and stress and triumph and even the despair of defeat, which only calls you back for more.
There is no satisfaction to be found in sport, only the urge to win and then to do it all again.
Wins have not been easy to come by at Selhurst Park recently. Hodgson takes over from the sacked Patrick Vieira with Palace in what appears to be a healthier position than Watford were last season, sitting 12th in the table, but that is a little misleading when you consider the congestion in the bottom half of the Premier League: only four points separate mid-table Palace from bottom-club Southampton, and the reality is that any of the bottom eight could be relegated if they struggle over the final two months.
The decision by Palace chairman Steve Parish to remove Vieira looked somewhat impulsive, given there was no successor ready to appoint.
Fans had a mixed reaction to Vieira’s sacking: his first season in charge had felt like more than just an uplift in form but a genuine shift at Selhurst Park, with a refreshing style of play centred around young talent and promising academy graduates.
Yet the momentum seeped away and Vieira was unable to reinvigorate his side; no wins in 2023 and a record-breaking run without a shot on target pushed the board to act.
His departure is indicative of the pressure felt by the threat of relegation from the lucrative Premier League, and Hodgson’s appointment suggests there was not much of a plan in place for the future, only hope of a short-term fix.
The 75-year-old has signed a three-month contract, and brings a known quantity to the helm. But he has won only five of his past 30 Premier League matches and there is no guarantee this will end any differently to his brief time at Watford.
Palace face a run of crucial fixtures against those teams around them at the bottom – their next six games are Leicester at home (17th), Leeds away (14th), Southampton at home (20th), Everton at home (15th) and Wolves away (13th) – and one member of Palace’s famous Holmsdale Fanatics said they have concerns about Hodgson’s style of football and whether his naturally conservative setup will “unleash” the team’s attacking qualities at a time when they need wins, not draws.
But they will get behind a manager who knows and loves the club – there is little choice now.
Hodgson arrives at the start of the international break and will have two weeks to get his team ready before his latest management journey begins.
Hodgson was born in Croydon in 1947, and as social media was quick to remind the world on Tuesday, he is older than the Bernabeu and was winning league titles before Mikel Arteta was even born.
Now he is back in Croydon for another go at the job that has filled most of the 75 years in between. It is the 23rd entry in his list of managerial posts, and who is to say it will be the last.