Crystal Palace are expected to avoid relegation, but fan’s are losing their patience as they feel the board lack ambition and they are backtracking as a club.
Palace players and fans could only look on in envy at Brighton’s celebrations following the 4-1 defeat at the Amex Stadium- begrudgingly looking at a club with a clear structure and identity.
At Crystal Palace, the contrast is a stark one as the pressure has increasingly mounted on Roy Hodgson and chairman Steve Parish. Discontent seemed to reach a flashpoint during the 5-0 humbling against Arsenal at the Emirates.
The despondent Palace fans unfurled a banner which read; “Wasted potential on and off the pitch, weak decisions, taking us backwards.”Embed from Getty Images
The M23 derby against Brighton was another notable setback, with the Amex faithful mocking the state of their opposition and gloating in their own success. Like Arsenal last month, Palace fans once again called for Hodgson and Parish to step away from the club.
The persistent heckling might have taken its toll on any other manager, but for Hodgson, a player and manager for 58 years, he was accustomed to it.
“My years in management have given me the resilience to cope with that,” Hodgson said.
“Taunts from (opposition) supporters are part and parcel of our lives. Our own fans are not happy with anything that’s going on at the club so they’re making their feelings known as well.”
“I signed up to be the manager of this club and I’ve got the strength, resilience and determination to see things through. I’m certainly not going to be cowed by that sort of thing and not going to give you the satisfaction of saying it hurts me because it’s pretty obvious.”
Mentally, Hodgson is more than equipped to deal with calls for his departure, but his prowess as a manager is understandably declining given his age, and Palace fans want a change. There was dissatisfaction when Palace decided to keep Hodgson on last summer, just months before Patrick Vieira was dismissed- with Palace in 12th but just three points off the drop-zone.Embed from Getty Images
Appointing Vieira certainly was ambitious, and some might say his dismissal was, as the Palace banner suggested, the club going backwards. But at the time, Palace were quickly descending into a relegation dogfight and a journeyman like Hodgson was needed to keep the club in the Premier League.
Vieira was sacked last year on the 17th of March and at the time Palace were without a win in any competition. Incidentally, the 1-0 loss to Brighton at the Amex was Vieira’s last act, and in the previous three games leading up to that, Palace had failed to register a shot on target, which no team has done in the Premier League since Opta began recording data in 2003.
The fact Hodgson has stayed on past his so-called ‘rescue mission’ is what has Palace fans irritated.
Deploying the same strategy when Vieira was there seems pointless. Palace aren’t in that precarious of a position in the table, sitting five points above the drop-zone, and bringing in a firefighter now with so many injuries and discontent at the club seems extremely risky.
Recent wins over Brentford and Sheffield United also indicate that Palace still have enough to stay up, even more so if Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze can stay fit.
They played a leading double act in the comeback over Sheffield United but Eze has since been sidelined with a hamstring injury and Olise was brought on at half-time against Brighton but could only last ten minutes before being pulled off. To compound matters, captain Marc Guehi was also subbed off after half an hour.Embed from Getty Images
Hodgson received criticism for bringing on Olise with the game seemingly dead and buried at 3-0, but he was adamant that the medical team and Olise himself gave the all-clear.
“I was told he couldn’t start the game and everyone was quite comfortable with that,” Hodgson said. “They (medical staff) told me, and he told me he was fine to be on the bench and play in the second half.”
Utilising the bench has not been part of Hodgon’s approach this season, largely because there is little options to choose from. Academy prospects Matheus Franca, Naouirou Ahamada and David Ozoh have been used regularly, but Hodgson himself has said they have failed to impact games.
However, Palace have tried to combat that with the £22 million acquisition of Adam Wharton from Blackburn Rovers. He may prove to be a sound bit of business from the club and will offer a solution to the absence of Cheick Doucouré, who is proving to be a colossal miss.Embed from Getty Images
Injuries, a lack of personnel and high expectations from the fans have not made matters easy for Hodgson and Parish. Given what clubs like Brighton, Brentford, and even Aston Villa are achieving, Palace have a right to be aggrieved and demand more from their club.
They have an incredible academy setup, a strong fanbase and a crop of players who are more than capable of breaching the top ten in the league. This summer feels like a crucial period for Crystal Palace, who will be undergoing a restructuring of some sort.