Roy Hodgson to leave Crystal Palace - farewell to a masterful manager

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Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson celebrates with James Tompkins - AP
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson celebrates with James Tompkins - AP

Roy Hodgson will be given an emotional send-off by Crystal Palace fans on Wednesday evening after announcing that he is retiring as a Premier League manager.

Up to 6,500 fans will be allowed back into Selhurst Park for the final home game of the season with Hodgson’s last match in charge away to his former club, Liverpool, on Sunday.

Hodgson’s departure, with his contract expiring and after 45 years as a manager, has been an open secret but it will allow Palace to step up their efforts to quickly find a replacement in what is expected to be a busy summer for the club. Ray Lewington, Hodgson’s highly-regarded assistant, will also leave.

Palace have already started to cast the net for candidates with Frank Lampard among the top choices. The 42-year is keen to resume his managerial career in the Premier League following 18 months in charge at Chelsea and would be attracted to Palace who are planning a £50 million overhaul that could see them sign four of five new players, with a large number of the current squad out of contract, and add a couple of high-profile loanees. Lampard’s links to Chelsea who may, for example, allow Billy Gilmour to go out on loan, would be helpful.

But other managers are being considered and extensive work has already taken. Sean Dyche has been heavily linked and has just one year left on his contract at Burnley although he is expected to soon begin negotiations on a new deal. Even so, he said: "I've always maintained the same thought: Eventually things in football change. I'm always flattered by any links because I respect the whole of football… It's not easy to plan a future in football – doors open and doors close. At the moment I'm still the Burnley manager. I must have said that down these eight and a half years a number of times."

Eddie Howe and Chris Wilder want to return to Premier League management while Palace have also considered Steve Cooper and Valerien Ismael, once the club’s record signing although not a success as a player, who are facing each other with Swansea City against Barnsley in the Championship play-offs.

Manager Roy Hodgson To Leave Crystal Palace at End of Season LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Roy Hodgson, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on ahead of the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Sheffield United at Selhurst Park on February 01, 2020 in London - Warren Little/Getty Images
Manager Roy Hodgson To Leave Crystal Palace at End of Season LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Roy Hodgson, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on ahead of the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Sheffield United at Selhurst Park on February 01, 2020 in London - Warren Little/Getty Images

After four years under Hodgson Palace accept they are entering a period of transition that will also involve lowering the average age of the squad. However the club are determined not to gamble and make a mistake as they did in hiring Frank de Boer who was sacked after losing his first four league games, with Hodgson then taking over in September 2017 before steering them to safety.

Hodgson is 74 in August and although in the statement announcing his departure he said “the time is right for me to step away from the rigours of top-flight Premier League football” he later suggested that this did not necessarily mean he was retiring.

“One never knows, it is a dangerous thing to do when you still feel good about yourself to start making bold statements about retirement and this is the end of me,” Hodgson said.

"I really don't know. I am certainly not leaving Crystal Palace with the idea of putting myself back on the market for another job, but who knows what the future will be. It is a never say never moment I think."

Nevertheless Hodgson can look back on a rich, largely successful and varied career in which he has managed 16 teams in eight countries beginning with Swedish club Halmstads and taking in Inter Milan, Udinese, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion as well as the Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and Finland national sides.

The pinnacle of his career, he said, was managing England, taking them to three tournaments – reaching the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 but failing to get out of the group in the 2014 World Cup and then losing ignominiously to Iceland at Euro 2016.

"When the chance to manage England came, it was a present too good to be true. I hope with hindsight they would have been seen as a decent four years' work and a platform laying for the big successes I am expecting England to have in the years to come,” Hodgson argued.

He always felt that managing Palace completed the circle having grown up locally and starting his playing career at the club he supported. “It’s been a particularly rewarding period of my football life and career to have been able to spend these last four seasons with Palace,” Hodgson said after becoming the first manager to keep them in the Premier League for four successive seasons.

Palace chairman Steve Parish said: “It has been an absolute privilege and pleasure to work alongside Roy, who is both a magnificent human and an outstanding football manager. I know how much it has meant to Roy managing the club he supported as a child, further adding to his distinguished and unparalleled career in football management. His record with us simply cannot be overstated.”

Farewell to one of the most accomplished English managers

By Jim White

Now Roy Hodgson has finally called time on a managerial career that stretched across 45 years, we can be certain of one thing: we will never see his like again. His longevity alone is extraordinary. When he was managing Crystal Palace in 2021 he was older than Steve Kember, who took charge at Selhurst Park 40 years earlier in 1981.

But there is a reason he has managed to maintain well into his seventies a mastery of a profession that exhausts many long before their fifties. He knows what he is doing. In part it is a knowledge built of experience. In his time he managed 13 clubs and four national sides across eight countries. He has learned vital lessons in how to deal with players and — as was evidenced in the valedictory tweet sent by the Palace chairman Steve Parish which described him as “an outstanding human being” — how to deal with club owners.

Parish is right though: Hodgson is an extraordinary man. To be a modern football manager requires a level of understanding way beyond that needed when he first started in the game. The modern boss has to have PhD levels of skill in everything from psychology to physiology. And Hodgson has all that. In fact he has an outstanding mind. When he worked abroad, for instance, there was nothing Steve McClaren about his approach to communication; he is fluent in five languages. Add to that a fascination in art, science and an extensive knowledge of modern American literature — his favourite authors include Saul Bellow, John Updike and Philip Roth — this is a man who redefines the term cosmopolitan.

And his intelligence was always visible in his approach. He can read the game like he can a doorstop novel: quickly, easily, insightfully. Watching him on the touchline is to see someone who has learned over the years that economy is a virtue. Unlike several of his more lauded rivals, he does not spend the entire game bellowing instruction. He chooses his moment to make intervention. When he does, his instruction is invariably short, sharp and comprehensible.

Not that even his extensive portfolio of skills has insulated him against failure. Like the plot of one of his favourite fictions, there have been dark periods of personal doubt. He had a wholly undistinguished four-month spell as caretaker manager at Bristol City in 1980, just as the club was financially imploding after their short foray into the top flight. His seven months at Liverpool in 2010 is not a time any of the club’s supporters would look back on with fondness. And it is probably best not to mention the word Iceland in his company, after the disastrous performance his England side gave against them in the 2016 Euros.

But mention the name Hodgson to fans of Fulham or Crystal Palace and you are certain to elicit a smile. It was at Craven Cottage that his skills were finally properly recognised in his homeland. After a couple of decades of peripatetic spinning round the globe, here he appeared fully at home. In his time on the Thames he made half a dozen stellar signings, took the club to the Uefa Cup final and won the manager of the year award. At Palace too, his time coincided with a period of steady growth and stability at odds with much of what had come before.

This is what Hodgson did as a manager: he brought order and rationality to a business that sorely needs both qualities. Sure he could be prickly and quick to take offence; there have been many press conferences at Selhurst Park latterly which might have benefitted had he prepared by reading some calming poetry. But that was largely a function of his lengthy career: he invariably knew more about most subjects than any of his interrogators.

Indeed, if football is wise, that knowledge should not be allowed to disappear with him. Bring him on to the FA ruling bodies, seek his advice at the top of the Premier League, use the biggest brain in football. Though he deserves the longest of retirements, the truth is game needs Roy Hodgson to stick in some sort of advisory capacity for a while yet.

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