Roy Hodgson has admitted he did not want his 40-year coaching career to end on the sour note of England’s humiliating defeat against Iceland at Euro 2016 after taking up the reins back at his first club, Crystal Palace, in the Premier League.
The former national manager will oversee his first training session at Palace’s Beckenham training ground on Wednesday after signing a two-year contract to succeed Frank de Boer. The Dutchman was sacked this week after only 77 days and four top-flight games in charge, with all of those matches lost without a goal scored en route to leave Palace propping up the Premier League with a daunting run of fixtures ahead.
Hodgson, whose first game in charge will be against Southampton on Saturday, had graduated through the youth‑team ranks at Palace, his local club, in the 1960s and has spoken of his pride at a homecoming. Yet he has also admitted the desire to erase memories of that defeat at Nice’s Allianz Riviera last June, which ended his four-year spell with the national team.
“I didn’t want to end it [my career] on a bad result but I think the 56 games and the seven defeats is not so bad,” he said. “I think we changed the team around and the young, exciting team you see today is the team I was putting together. We lost a knockout game and I was very sad about that. I can’t put that right but I’m very pleased to be back at the highest level with a good football club.
“This is very much the club of my boyhood and I remember in my youth watching the club from the Holmesdale Road end, which was terracing in those days, which gave me such fond memories. In those days I had dreams of playing for the team, then as a coach you think about coaching the team and a lot has happened in between times.
“It is very rewarding to find myself here now, in difficult times of course, as the Palace manager at a club that I have always loved and admired with a huge potential. We are the club of south London, with an enormously large fanbase. The ambitions here are realistic and there is an enormous potential for growth, so there are so many boxes ticked for me.”
The former Internazionale, Blackburn Rovers, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion manager, who has overseen 15 clubs as well as four national sides since embarking on his coaching career in 1976, will be joined at Selhurst Park by his assistant from Fulham and England, Ray Lewington, who spent time at Palace as a coach in the mid-1990s and whom Hodgson described as “a top-class coach”. A first-team coach will be appointed after the departure of Sammy Lee, who had joined the club with Sam Allardyce last December.
“I haven’t met them [the players] yet but I am looking forward to working with them,” Hodgson said. “They did very well last season especially towards the end of the season – that trio of [Andros] Townsend, [Christian] Benteke and [Wilfried] Zaha were a threat – so I’ve got no reason to believe they can’t do it again. Our fate will be decided after 38 games, not four but we have to get back on track. I hope we can achieve our goals. I am very excited to be back in club football and it is a long while since I have enjoyed the day-to-day sessions of training. That’s where I most like to be: out on the training field.”
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