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Matt Maher: Roy Hodgson still struggling to kick the habit

Welcome back then, again, Roy Hodgson.

Roy Hodgson is back at Palace
Roy Hodgson is back at Palace

Still less than two years since most assumed he had left management for good after departing Crystal Palace, the former Baggies boss is back in the game for a second time and back at Selhurst Park at the age of 75.

Just as last season, when he took charge at Watford, Hodgson has answered the call from a club in distress and fearing for its Premier League status.

Yet it does not require too forensic an inspection of the circumstances to realise this challenge is very different.

Whereas Watford sat in the relegation zone having already sacked two managers when Hodgson arrived, Palace are 12th in the table. The worst form in the league since the turn of the year might have seen them drift alarmingly close to the drop zone, yet a significant portion of their fanbase remained behind Patrick Vieira and believed the Frenchman would eventually have found a solution to the goalscoring woes which have detracted from the efforts of a usually stubborn defence.

The best Hodgson can do is keep Palace where they are. There is little to gain but plenty to lose. The damage, both reputational and personal, from a relegation suffered at the helm of the club he supported as a boy and did so much to make a fixture in the top flight, would be considerable.

Yet Hodgson knows all this. Behind the affable nature, mispronounced R’s and increasing wrinkles remains a fiercely sharp, calculating mind.

You don’t enjoy the career Hodgson has by being overly sentimental. He’s accepted the Palace job because he wants it and believes he can be a success. He remains hungry as ever. Many who know him claim he never wanted to leave Selhurst Park in 2021 in the first place.

“A sadistic pleasure” was how Hodgson once described football management. “It isn’t something you give up easily,” he added.

Some will no doubt find his inability to kick the habit sad. Perhaps it is a little.

Yet in many ways, Hodgson’s return is inspiring. Isn’t his outlook, after all, the one most of us hope to retain in our later years? Still confident, still unbowed and still believing.

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