A job well done as Roy Hodgson bids farewell to Crystal Palace in healthy position

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When Roy Hodgson waves goodbye to Selhurst Park tonight, he will do so in the knowledge that he is leaving Crystal Palace in the best shape they have been in for decades.

Palace were pointless, goalless and in disarray at the bottom of the table when he replaced Frank De Boer in September 2017 after the team had lost its first four Premier League matches.

But Hodgson, who announced yesterday he will step down as Palace manager at the end of the season, steadied the ship and has brought unprecedented stability to his corner of south London.

He steered his boyhood club out of the bottom three in March 2018 and they have not spent a single day there since.

Upon his appointment, Hodgson, returning to management a little over a year after leaving the England job, was tasked with putting back together a team shattered by the 77-day tenure of De Boer and in danger of dropping down into the Championship.

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Palace have not finished lower than 14th under his watch and could finish as high as 11th this season.

They have continually punched above their weight under Hodgson, who has acted with the utmost dignity at every turn, whether faced with transfer sagas involving Wilfried Zaha, supporter unrest about his style of football or questions about his own future.

Some supporters have not always been enamoured by his admission that the primary target each season is simply to survive. But the task of keeping Palace up should not be underestimated given the budget constraints Hodgson has been working under.

Since his appointment four years ago, Palace are the only club in the Premier League with a negative spend on transfers.

The club-record £50million sale of academy graduate Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United in 2019, which came after the right-back developed under Hodgson’s trust, has allowed the club to invest in the future, re-developing its Beckenham academy, which now has Category One status.

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While work went on to improve infrastructure behind the scenes, the first-team soldiered on, never in trouble, with every ounce squeezed out of them by Hodgson, his trusted assistant Ray Lewington and the rest of their coaching team.

“His record with us simply cannot be overstated,” said chairman Steve Parish yesterday. “He is the only Palace manager to secure four years in the Premier League and he has helped give us stability in the most turbulent of times. We will be forever grateful for his immense contribution.”

Fans have grown frustrated a perceived lack of adventure from the team this season. It has been a tough watch at times which makes this amicable separation feel natural.

But in the most challenging of seasons, with a modest budget and the oldest squad in the top-flight, Palace have hardly ever looked in trouble.

It has not just been a case of keeping their heads above water throughout Hodgson’s tenure. Palace’s longest serving manager since Steve Coppell has overseen back-to-back victories at Old Trafford and an unforgettable 3-2 win at Manchester City in 2019 thanks to a goal of the season from Andros Townsend.

There have been club records too, for the most goals and points across a Premier League season.

There will be plenty of memories, a fine legacy and Palace fans will get a chance to pay tribute to Hodgson when they return to Selhurst Park for tonight’s game against Arsenal.

The challenge now for Palace is to kick-on next season and beyond.

Parish and sporting director Dougie Freedman face a huge summer in which a new direction will be defined by whoever is appointed to succeed Hodgson.

Whether that be Sean Dyche, Frank Lampard or someone else, their biggest task will be not to waste the foundations laid by the man who will bid farewell to Selhurst Park tonight.

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