Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is often painted as a gentle soul by our country’s press but the 70-year-old pulled no punches when asked about the performance of Christian Benteke on his return from injury.
Having been out of action since mid-September when he hobbled off the pitch at The Etihad Stadium with a knee ligament injury, last weekend’s visit from the Toffees saw him reintroduced to the first-team, starting the game on the bench before replacing James McArthur with 15 minutes left to play in the contest.
Whilst some rustiness was to be expected, the striker will have been mightily disappointed to have missed a gilt-edged chance to win it for us when put clean through on goal by Wilfried Zaha following a mix-up in the Everton defence late on. Running in on Jordan Pickford’s goal, he skewed a shot badly wide of the right post in front of the Holmesdale Road, drawing audible groans from the crowd before expressing frustration himself at passing up such a golden opportunity.
I was pretty sure the manager would be sympathetic to Benteke were he asked to comment on the miss in his press conference after the game but to the contrary, Roy actually threw rather a pointed observation in Christian’s direction, leaving him in no doubt over what will be expected of him when Stoke City visit SE25 this weekend.
With more than a month to go until we can start making serious moves for striking reinforcements, Benteke remains our one and only out-and-out striker who’s fit enough to take part in the Premier League but it seems he can’t bank on the boss to shield him from criticism given our desperate need for points in the battle to avoid the drop.
Perhaps tough love is exactly what Big Ben needs, we shall see if it has the desired effect soon enough.