Roy Hodgson is now 81 games into his tenure as Crystal Palace manager and despite some rather sizeable hiccups along the way, it’s difficult not to look back on the 2018/19 season with a sense that progress, albeit small is being made both on and off the pitch.
When the now 71-year-old first took up residence in the Selhurst Park dugout, things were looking rather bleak for the Eagles. Having experimented with and quickly grown tired of Dutchman Frank de Boer, Palace chairman Steve Parish parachuted Hodgson in to save the day; with his impact having a more positive impact than anyone initially thought possible.
Now, more than a year and a half into his stay, Roy has steadied the ship to a point of gentle tranquillity. The team’s home form remains a major source of frustration but to examine the bigger picture is to see a side who clearly trust their manager’s methods implicitly, despite any outside concerns over his potential longevity within the role.
The former England boss put pen to paper on a two-year deal last summer and looks highly likely to see out the terms of that contract in south London at the very least, with the plan ahead of the summer window seemingly centred around “retaining our nucleus” and adding a few extra pieces to perhaps push towards the top half, with Roy leading the charge.
Were Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to stay on for another year, sites like SBD see reasons for optimism in the 2019-20 season. Despite being unable to match last year’s 11th place finish the club will finish this season with more points overall, even with a match remaining against 13th-place Bournemouth.
Despite 46 points looking unlikely after the 2-2-8 start, Hodgson has had the team playing at a higher level since mid-November. And though securing the transfer of Cardiff winger Josh Murphy won’t greatly move the needle, merely returning a young and talented core could see Palace move into the upper half of the table without any major squad additions.
We may not have earned the respect of everyone within the Premier League just yet but ahead of a record seventh straight season at English football’s top table, we’re probably better set than ever before to have a stereotypically “stress free” campaign with the potential for Europa League qualification at the end of the rainbow. I can dream, right?