‘I don’t think about Ice­land – who cares?’

Hodg­son de­fi­ant as he takes charge at Palace 15 months af­ter Eng­land de­ba­cle, says Jason Burt

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

Four hun­dred and forty four days af­ter Roy Hodg­son, rheumy-eyed and ex­hausted, sat and ut­tered the words: “I don’t know what I am do­ing here”, he was back. Then he was ex­it­ing as Eng­land man­ager, with a fi­nal ig­no­min­ious press con­fer­ence, hav­ing over­seen the most bru­tal of fail­ures at Euro 2016. Now he is in charge of Crys­tal Palace and feel­ing em­bold­ened to de­clare that the club’s sup­port­ers would care lit­tle about what hap­pened with Eng­land should he keep them in the Pre­mier League.

While ac­cept­ing that “ca­reers are de­fined by small mo­ments” and that his four years with Eng­land had ended hor­ri­bly with the crash­ing de­feat by Ice­land, Hodg­son was de­fi­ant.

De­spite the scars, he in­sisted he was not dam­aged. “First of all, I’m not in­ter­ested in Ice­land,” he stated. “We’re go­ing down a route which I’ve said, rea­son­ably po­litely, is a past chap­ter. Who cares? You might. A lot of the Palace fans read­ing this, the ones who in­ter­est me, what does it say about me, my team? There might be peo­ple in Carlisle who’d like to know that, but I’m in south Lon­don, Beck­en­ham.”

South Lon­don and proud, as the Palace slo­gan goes.

That “who cares?” line might come back to haunt Hodg­son and it did sound un­nec­es­sar­ily abrupt, given the mag­ni­tude of his fail­ure and the fact that this was his first press con­fer­ence since Eng­land cleared out of their base in Chan­tilly, near Paris, the af­ter­noon af­ter the Ice­land de­ba­cle.

Then, Hodg­son looked men­tally as well as phys­i­cally bro­ken and al­though he said he had watched the game again, he has not done so for about 14 months, adding em­phat­i­cally: “And I don’t want to watch it now. It’s got no rel­e­vance to my work”.

Speak­ing at Palace’s Beck­en­ham train­ing ground, ahead of to­day’s lunchtime kick-off against Southamp­ton, Hodg­son cer­tainly ap­peared health­ier. He is “ab­so­lutely” con­vinced he can keep the club up de­spite their dis­as­trous start hav­ing lost their first four matches, which led to Frank de Boer’s sack­ing.

“It would have been un­usual if I had not felt [shat­tered] that day,” Hodg­son re­called, hav­ing en­dured a sleep­less night on the re­turn from Nice. “I and my coach­ing staff cared very deeply. We had high hopes of go­ing a good way into the com­pe­ti­tion. To lose in the way we did against a team many thought we should have beaten… that was a bad day. But it’s well over a year ago now.

“Ca­reers are de­fined by small mo­ments. Noth­ing I can say or do will change that. I can’t look back with sat­is­fac­tion with not pro­gress­ing at tour­na­ments in the way we’d have liked. But it’s a chap­ter that’s fin­ished, in the past as far as I’m con­cerned, and now it’s a chap­ter in the book of life open­ing for me, and one I’m look­ing for­ward to. One I’m hop­ing brings joy to the fans of Crys­tal Palace. That would be spe­cial be­cause I am a Croy­don boy and didn’t leave here un­til I was 24 years of age.

“I’ve had lots of time to get my mind back on track, and it didn’t take me a year. It took less. I’ve been wait­ing for this op­por­tu­nity to come along.”

Hodg­son has fol­lowed a daily regime at a gym near his south­west Lon­don home.

Re­turn­ing to Palace is, maybe, the com­ple­tion of the cir­cle for Hodg­son, who is now 70 and who was born less than a mile from Sel­hurst Park. Af­ter his glo­be­trot­ting ca­reer he is well aware of the mo­ment. “It couldn’t have been a bet­ter of­fer for me re­ally, go­ing back to my roots, the club I’ve sup­ported from afar,” he said. “I sup­pose when I was a child, my dreams were play­ing for the club. I would have ac­cepted man­ag­ing them if I wasn’t good enough to play for them. It’s been in­ter­est­ing, the jour­ney, from south-west Lon­don to Beck­en­ham and Sel­hurst Park, go­ing past some fa­mil­iar old places.”

That was as rel­e­vant for Eng­land as Palace with Hodg­son say­ing he did not con­sider re­tir­ing. He wanted to carry on. “It’s a drug that gets in your veins and stays there,” he said. “This is my first full-time em­ploy­ment in foot­ball for a year. I’m bet­ter for that. I’ve al­ways been wait­ing and hop­ing for the of­fer and op­por­tu­nity to take on a club at a level I want to work at, and some­thing that will re­ally test me and give me the op­por­tu­nity to use the ex­pe­ri­ence and hope­fully the abil­ity I’ve got as a foot­ball coach. This one came along and I had ab­so­lutely no hes­i­ta­tion in ac­cept­ing.”

Palace will hope they are get­ting the Hodg­son of Ful­ham (2007) and West Bromwich Al­bion (2011), both of whom he saved from rel­e­ga­tion. “Where does it sit in the chal­lenges I’ve faced?” Hodg­son said. “Dif­fi­cult ques­tion. Ful­ham I had 18 games, West Brom 12 games. This

‘I have had lots of time to get my mind back on track. I have been wait­ing for this chance’

is a 34-game sea­son [now]. We’ve had a bad start, and we’ve hand­i­capped our­selves by not tak­ing any points from the first four games. But I’ve said to the play­ers al­ready that our fo­cus is re­ally on May, not the end of Septem­ber. I be­lieve the team will stay up. Ab­so­lutely. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I didn’t be­lieve it.”

If he does that Hodg­son will hope to have re­stored his rep­u­ta­tion – even if he did not want to ad­mit that. With a two-year con­tract, though, will this be his fi­nal job? “At the mo­ment I’m feel­ing as good as I’ve ever felt,” Hodg­son said. “You can’t tear up your birth cer­tifi­cate, but it’s how you feel. Whether it’s my last job, I don’t know. I want to keep Palace up and de­velop Crys­tal Palace, along with the chair­man and the own­ers, to try and make us an even bet­ter Pre­mier League team.”

Back to his roots: Roy Hodg­son is all smiles as he re­turns to his lo­cal club, Crys­tal Palace

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.