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Sunday, May 19, 2024

If Roy Hodgson is reaching the end at Crystal Palace, he does not deserve such toxicity

As Paul Tierney blew the final whistle at the Emirates Stadium, Roy Hodgson shrugged his shoulders, stood on the touchline for a few moments and gazed across the pitch.

He had just watched Crystal Palace be dismantled 5-0 by Arsenal and, once again, the mood was toxic.

An FA Cup defeat at the first hurdle in their midweek replay with Everton had been rancorous, but there was far less anger on Merseyside on Wednesday night than in north London on Saturday.

Here, fans were holding up banners denouncing the club’s hierarchy before the clock had even entered stoppage time. One, held by the Holmesdale Fanatics ultras group, read: “Wasted potential on and off the pitch. Weak decisions taking us backwards.” Another was more personal: “No shared vision, no structured plan, Parish out, Yanks out”.

Players were also targeted. Defender Joachim Andersen engaged in an angry, if brief, confrontation with the travelling supporters. as he went to acknowledge the support, while Eberechi Eze held out his hands apologetically. The rage was inevitable after such an awful defeat, but, as Hodgson suggested, the supporters are entitled to want better.

Eberechi Eze gestures towards Palace fans (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The home supporters gleefully sang Patrick Vieira’s name as the banners appeared, referencing support for the man Palace had sacked as head coach two days before the corresponding fixture last season.

Once again, Palace find themselves with a decision to make over their manager. Just as Vieira was, in part, undone by a lack of significant squad investment by the board — which itself is deeply divided over the long-term strategy — Hodgson finds himself in a similar predicament.

Vieira had to be accountable for failings in his second season, and Hodgson bears some of the responsibility for a run of two wins in 16 games, even if he, too, has had to contend with a squad which has obvious holes and where a lack of depth has been exposed by injuries to key players.

But now with Hodgson, who has a long history with Palace, the overriding emotion was one of sadness that it has reached this point.

He does not deserve this level of opprobrium, even though he understands that, as manager, he is the public-facing figure who is under most scrutiny and acts as the lightning rod for problems which are not entirely of his making. Results, he said on Saturday — and for a second time this season — decide everything.

Steve Parish watched on from the directors’ box alongside co-owner John Textor and sporting director Dougie Freedman. They are one step removed from the worst of the vitriol, but the criticism will cut them deep – particularly Parish, who played such a key role in saving Palace from administration in 2010 and has since kept them in the top flight for an historically long unbroken spell.

Parish will not relish the prospect of deciding Hodgson’s future and in an ideal scenario will want Hodgson to see out the season, allowing the chance for a full reset in the summer.

He told The High Performance Podcast last summer that the period before sacking a manager was “the worst in football” but offered insight into what would make up his mind.

“The way you play, even more than results,” he said. “Sometimes you can win games but you recognise you were lucky. I go to the training ground once a week. I don’t interfere and I don’t live there, but you can sense a mood, a feeling for the way things are going. It’s a difficult job, being a Premier League manager; it’s a wearisome, tiring job and you start seeing the fatigue in a manager.”

Roy Hodgson is enduring a torrid run at Palace (Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Parish, who was at Palace’s training ground on Friday, will also be conscious of how fans are turning on him. One held up a scarf at the Emirates referencing his comments about taking “the club to the next level”. It was not a gesture of support.

Whatever happens next, it is difficult to see how Hodgson’s latest tenure, even if it does limp on to the end of the season, will possibly be remembered fondly. In May, he had been celebrated, serenaded by fans as “one of their own” after guiding them to Premier League safety after Vieira’s departure.

That much is incredibly unfortunate, but it was always a risk to return with his standing so high among the fans. Maybe he felt he couldn’t turn down the call to pull Palace out of the mire yet again. As it is, Hodgson — who has managed on limited resources so many times before — appears to be finding this an impossible job, even if he believes it is not.

On Saturday, he conceded he does sometimes question whether he ought to have come back.

“I love it more at certain times,” he told TNT Sports when asked why he was stood at a freezing Emirates Stadium rather than relaxing on a beach in the sun. “When we’ve gone through the trials and tribulations of the last few months… coming back for those 10 games (at the end of last season), I loved that.

“That was the self-playing piano. But the self-playing piano’s cracked up and now we’ve really had to work very hard to get any tune out of it at all. I’m still looking forward to the last part of the season where I think we’ll be a stronger team — but I’d be dishonest if I said I didn’t ask it myself sometimes.“

Those questions will only resound more loudly in the wake of one of his most chastening days in charge of Palace. After all his achievements at the club and the fairytale of his first return, a sense of regret should be felt by everyone connected to the club.

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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