Roy Hodgson has never been one to rant and rave in public. Notoriously cool, he keeps his emotions in check and rarely breaks his calm demeanour in the presence of the media.
These are testing times at Crystal Palace, though, and even the very best can be riled eventually. January was a tough month in south London, and the veteran boss didn’t get what he wanted.
Hodgson was forthright about his intentions heading into the winter transfer window. ‘We’ve got such a small squad and we can’t keep asking for miracles,’ he said. ‘If we can get through Christmas and the chairman can give me four or five new players then we can do extremely well.’
Roy Hodgson is the bookies’ favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave his job
Crystal Palace are in a rough patch of form and are slipping towards the relegation zone
If that was the public request, you can bet that the private one was a little less sugar-coated. Hodgson has been patient with the hierarchy at Selhurst Park, but there’s only so long that can last.
January has now come and gone, and only one senior player came through the door at Palace in the form of much-maligned Everton loanee Cenk Tosun.
That he is currently occupying a place on the treatment table and won’t play until at least the back end of February is just another sprinkle of salt in Hodgson’s gaping wound.
Forward Cenk Tosun was the only name that came through the door in January on a loan deal
Then there were the failed moves for Nathan Ferguson, Jarrod Bowen, Jordon Ibe, Jamal Lewis, Yannick Carrasco… the list seems endless.
Ferguson came the closest, but an underlying knee issue that Palace believed needed surgery meant that they and West Brom failed to reach an agreement.
Bowen opted for West Ham, they left Ibe too late, Jamal Lewis wasn’t available, and Yannick Carrasco headed to Atletico Madrid instead.
When the clock struck 11pm on January 31, Palace fans’ anger was palpable. In the entirety of the month, with the boss desperate for incomings, he actually ended it a senior player down.
Palace chairman Steve Parish failed to secure a number of transfer targets for Hodgson
Connor Wickham headed on loan to Sheffield Wednesday at the eleventh hour, and Victor Camarasa’s unhappy loan spell in south London was terminated early as he signed for Alaves, having played just five minutes of Premier League football all season.
Giovanni McGregor, Dion-Curtis Henry, Scott Banks, Jason Lokilo and Sam Woods all headed out on loan from the Under 23s, while James Daly left permanently. Overall, that’s eight outs and one in from a squad desperate for reinforcements.
In the last three transfer windows, Palace have not spent more than £2.5million on a player, and it would not be surprising if Hodgson was getting close to the point of no return.
He has just six months left on his Eagles contract, and the one-year extension clause within it has not been signed. Perhaps it’s not even been broached by either party, given the current state of affairs.
Hodgson’s time at Selhurst Park may be nearing its end with just six months left on his deal
The ex-England boss lamented his ‘small squad’ and said he couldn’t keep asking for miracles
Things came to a head on Saturday night, following Palace’s latest defeat – this time by Sheffield United. A fake account on Twitter duped supporters into thinking Hodgson had walked, and the odds on him being the next Premier League manager to leave plummeted.
He has moved out to evens now, but the fake news got supporters thinking that perhaps it wasn’t too far from the truth.
Hodgson is a proud man, and at the age of 72 and with a long and illustrious career behind him, it would not be a surprise if Palace was his final job in management.
He will not want to walk out of his final assignment and the likelihood of him throwing in the towel is extremely low, bordering on the non-existent.
Having said that, with so little time left on his contract, it would be far less of a surprise to see a mutual closure come the end of the season.
Hodgson will not want to throw in the towel at Palace as the team prepare for a relegation fight
Palace are sleepwalking towards a relegation battle, in part down to Hodgson’s tactics, but much of the blame must go to the board for their lack of action in the transfer window. Their scattergun approach to signings could well be the reason for the club’s eventual return to the second tier.
The former England boss couldn’t have been much clearer in his January ambitions, and having essentially worked miracles with his threadbare squad over the first half of the season, the Eagles’ luck is starting to run out as they head into the back end of the campaign.
They have a favourable run of fixtures in the coming weeks, with Everton, Newcastle, Brighton, Watford and Bournemouth on the horizon, but beyond that things get sticky.
The slump is partly down to Hodgson’s tactics but mostly due to the board’s transfer policy
If Hodgson’s side are within touching distance of the relegation zone after that, a run of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham to finish the season at Selhurst will do nothing to calm the nerves.
Outside the top half of the Premier League, no side is too good to go down and should Palace pick up any further injuries, they could quite easily slide their way even further down the league table.
Three wins in 17 is a sorry state of affairs in south London, and the club have well and truly missed the chance to balance out their ageing squad by bringing in some talented young players in January.
Hodgson has spoken out about the need to bring the average age of his team down, but Saturday afternoon saw them field their oldest ever Premier League line-up, with an average age of 30 years and 94 days.
Palace supporters are losing patience with the side as boos rang round Selhurst Park last week
The flip-side of that is a wealth of experience for a tough few months ahead, but that will be of no solace to Hodgson and the club’s increasingly-agitated support.
Boos rang around Selhurst Park at the final whistle on Saturday. A few moments before that, one fan had walked to the bottom of the stairs of the Holmesdale Stand in an act of pure defiance, taking his scarf from around his neck to launch it onto the pitch.
It nestled just over the white line, blowing in the wind as the players toiled just yards behind. ‘That’s me, I’m done,’ the fan screamed as he turned back and made his way towards the exit.
If any more hurdles are placed at the feet of Hodgson, he may well follow that incensed fan out of the Selhurst Park exit door.