The expiry of Roy Hodgson’s contract is perfectly timed. But Palace can’t risk getting lost by lurching off down a different road…
This is the managerial departure that the term ‘mutual consent’ was coined for. But Crystal Palace did the decent thing and allowed Roy Hodgson to ‘step down’ as their manager on Tuesday morning.
Whether or not he was ushered towards the door doesn’t matter. What does is that he will be allowed to walk through at his own behest after Sunday which is the least he deserves. Four years and 162 matches at the helm have provided Palace with the level of security and pragmatism that other clubs crave. And some of the clubs that don’t, should.
This was an opportunity to part on the best of terms that neither party could waste. For Hodgson, it is job done. He was hired in September 2017 after Palace pulled the plug on their brief, disastrous attempt at going in a different direction from Sam Allardyce to Frank de Boer. Palace were pointless and goalless after four games, and they remained those things for three more games too, but once Hodgson had been allowed to drill into the group he inherited his core values of shape, organisation and discipline, the Eagles climbed to mid-table and rarely ever left.
Under Hodgson, that became the Palace way. It had to be. At no point during his reign have Palace had the players or the resources to play expansive, care-free football. It has not often been easy on the eye and frustrations among the supporters occasionally swelled to something close to open dissent. But there was always an understanding at Selhurst Park over why Palace played the Roy way.
A very dignified statement from Roy Hodgson this.
I’m so glad we as a fan-base get to thank him at Selhurst tomorrow night.
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) May 18, 2021
Not that it was one-dimensional. Hodgson’s success at Palace is built on solidity but he has also given the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze the platform to play. For Palace, with the oldest squad in the Premier League, Hodgson’s blend has been just right.
Just as it is right for the club and their manager to go their separate ways now. Because Palace need a rebuild. Hodgson may have fancied another year in the top flight but by the time the next campaign kicks off, the boyhood Palace fan will be 74. A steady hand may well have been useful at such a crucial juncture, but upon the turnover of half their squad, Palace need a vision for their future which can’t possibly include Hodgson, already the oldest manager to boss in the Premier League.
Palace could veer in a different direction, but they’ve tried that before and got hopelessly lost. It was Hodgson who dragged them back on course when he arrived. Steve Parrish and the Palace board, we assume, won’t have forgotten that.
Aiming for evolution over revolution may be impossible when half of the first-team squad is due to leave with Hodgson, but a raft of personnel changes does not mean that Palace have to entirely abandon the principles that have made them a ridiculously consistent presence in the Premier League.
But the rumoured interest in Frank Lampard prompts the concern that Parrish has been blinded by star quality once more.
In the same way parting with Hodgson makes sense for all concerned, replacing him with Lampard seems a terrible idea across the board.
Lampard fudged a semi-rebuild with, in comparison to the Palace purse, limitless resources at Chelsea even while most of the heavy lifting was done for him by the board. Lampard’s job was simple: mould the incredible talent at his disposal into something resembling a title contender. Even his years of stellar service on the pitch could not spare him the axe when Chelsea dropped to ninth.
How would Lampard manage an overhaul that could leave Palace with just a dozen first-team players come July 1? We don’t know because he’s never taken on a job of that scale. But we can all make a reasonable guess.
For Lampard too, this would be a perilous next step. He cannot afford his next job to end in failure and there will be far cushier offers for him to consider. To a seasoned manager, one with a track record of building squads within budgets and provoking teams to overachieve, Palace is an intriguing prospect. Lampard is not that man.
Sean Dyche might be. Chris Wilder could be too. Palace, apparently, have their feelers out and a swift appointment will be required after Sunday.
In the meantime, Hodgson deserves the focus to be on him as he leads Palace out for one last time at Selhurst Park on Wednesday, in the presence of Arsenal and a few thousand thankful fans. Hodgson will bow out against one of his 16 former clubs on Sunday, at Liverpool where the prevailing sentiment will be rather less grateful. Especially if he ambles off into the sunset with the wreckage of their Champions League hopes over his shoulder.