Hodg­son: I will stop us from dig­ging our grave

The Observer - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - Sachin Nakrani

Roy Hodg­son de­scribed de­feat in his first match as Crys­tal Palace man­ager as a painful ex­pe­ri­ence and said his prin­ci­pal task is to pre­vent his play­ers “dig­ging them­selves into a grave”. Palace find them­selves rooted to the bot­tom of the Premier League on the back of no wins and no goals in the open­ing five fix­tures of the cam­paign – a top-flight record – and they now face a daunt­ing set of fix­tures.

Steven Davis’s sixth-minute goal con­demned Palace to a de­served 1-0 loss to Southamp­ton and ru­ined Hodg­son’s home­com­ing af­ter the Croy­don born 70-year-old had been ap­pointed Frank de Boer’s suc­ces­sor as man­ager at the start of last week. The hosts dis­played plenty of en­deav­our but once again lacked qual­ity and as­sur­ance in at­tack­ing ar­eas. Their last league goal was scored by Patrick van Aan­holt in a 4-0 home vic­tory against Hull on 14 May in their penul­ti­mate match of the sea­son and their hopes of main­tain­ing their top-flight sta­tus, hav­ing achieved pro­mo­tion in 2013, look par­tic­u­larly bleak given they face suc­ces­sive trips to the Manch­ester clubs be­fore a visit from Chelsea.

“To­day I thought it was a dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance,” said Hodg­son on what was his first taste of man­age­ment since Eng­land’s de­feat to Ice­land in the last 16 at Euro 2016 nearly 15 months ago. “The anx­i­ety that was there for all to see in the first half in par­tic­u­lar, not made eas­ier, of course, by con­ced­ing the early goal.

“It is painful to­day and I fear it is go­ing to be painful in some of the mo­ments go­ing for­ward, but there’s no way you can talk your­self out of that and there’s

no point in mak­ing a bold state­ment that might not be rat­i­fied in some way. We’ve got to just get down to work­ing.

“I’m not sug­gest­ing the work we do on the train­ing pitch will pro­duce two or three Mes­sis and Ron­al­dos but we need to im­prove our strengths, cover up weak­nesses and be an­a­lyt­i­cal in our judg­ment of the play­ers to en­sure we get the best 11 play­ers on the field.”

As well as work­ing his play­ers hard at Palace’s Beck­en­ham-based train­ing ground, Hodg­son also said he would also have to work on their con­fi­dence, with it clear that they have a se­vere lack of that right now. “The other [part of our work] is go­ing to be the psy­cho­log­i­cal as­pect where we’ve got to try very hard to make cer­tain that peo­ple don’t dig them­selves into a grave,” he said. “The sta­tis­tics dig us into a grave, but only what we do on the foot­ball field can get us out of it or make the sit­u­a­tion worse.”

De­spite the re­sult, Hodg­son in­sisted he was very pleased to be back in man­age­ment, while it was an­nounced be­fore kick-off that Palace had dis­pensed with Sammy Lee’s ser­vices as an as­sis­tant to the for­mer Ful­ham, West Bromwich Al­bion and Liver­pool man­ager. Given his links to the club and area, it was also not a sur­prise to hear Hodg­son re­ceive ap­plause from the home crowd when he took his place in the dugout. “I was de­lighted with the re­cep­tion I got,” he said.

For Mauri­cio Pel­le­grino this was a wel­come vic­tory fol­low­ing Southamp­ton’s home de­feat to Wat­ford seven days ago. “We are happy about the re­sult, also how we achieved the game from the be­gin­ning,” said the man­ager, who in­tro­duced Vir­gil van Dijk as a late sub­sti­tute for his first ap­pear­ance of the sea­son, fol­low­ing the Dutch­man’s failed at­tempt to leave the club in the sum­mer. “Palace got a group of play­ers with qual­ity but we con­trolled the ball.”

Los­ing start: Roy Hodg­son blamed Palace’s de­feat by Southamp­ton in his first game in charge on anx­i­ety. ‘It’s a painful day,’ the man­ager said.

Looks fa­mil­iar: Roy Hodg­son said he was de­lighted with his re­cep­tion from the Crys­tal Palace fans but the play­ers may have brought back mem­o­ries of Eng­land v Ice­land

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