Sunday, March 18The Voice of London

Roy Hodgson looking to build on Chelsea and Newcastle performances against West Ham in bottom of the table clash

Roy Hodgson was keen to downplay the notion that this weekend’s clash against West Ham in particular is a ‘must win’ game for Crystal Palace, who sit bottom of the Premier League with just three points.

At Thursday’s press conference, he said: “I don’t believe in ‘must win’ matches because I don’t know how you get a team to win the must win game. The only way to win a must win game is if you are good enough and if you’re better than the opposition.”

He added: “for me every game is a must win game and if we climb out of the relegation zone I will still tell the players it’s a must win to get higher up the table.”

The Crystal Palace manager was wary of overstating the confidence gained from the performances against Chelsea and Newcastle in recent weeks. He insisted: “this league is sufficiently tough and sufficiently equal that even if you are at the top and playing the team at the bottom, if you say ‘I am confident we will win’… that’s a bold statement.

Confidence is the wrong word; satisfaction with the way the players are trying to do what we are asking them to do. Confidence that we won’t let the fans down in any other way than the result. Out work rate will be first class.”

When asked whether team morale took a hit after the midweek defeat to Bristol City in the Carabao Cup, Hodgson was adamant that the first team remain in high spirits:

“It [morale] would have [taken a hit] if we’d played worse. That sounds strange when you’ve been heavily beaten but it was five shots at goal. It wasn’t a question of us being penned in our own half and for long periods of the game we played some reasonable football.”

Hodgson, born in the Croydon area, expressed sympathy with the fans who voiced their dissatisfaction on Tuesday night:

“Fans at the game show their displeasure at coming all that way and seeing their team beaten and I can fully understand that, and I think they are more than entitled to do that.

“We know how important they are to us in particular because they are very much a 12th man when we play at Selhurst and they give us fantastic support away from home.

“We’ve got to give them something to cheer about, either in terms of performances or results. Ideally both.”

Saturday’s game sees Palace face West Ham United, whose manager Slaven Bilić has come under a lot of pressure after West Ham’s continued run of bad form.

It is understood that the Hammers’ boss has two games to save his job but Hodgson disapproves of this approach:

“I think that managers are either good enough to be running their teams or they are not.

“The slings and arrows of fortune which will see you either win the game or lose it, if it’s as simple as that – that one’s competence as a coach is going to be simply decided on the fact that you were totally outplayed but you got an unbelievably lucky win – ok you stay. Or you played brilliantly you should have easily won the game, you’re done a fantastic job but unluckily have lost it in the last minute you’ve got to go.

“I don’t understand that.”

Chung-yong Lee became the latest addition to the casualty list at Selhurst after he “got a nasty kick” in midweek against Bristol City, but Hodgson is hopeful that midfielder James McArthur will recover from a knock picked up against Newcastle in time for the West Ham game.

Christian Benteke remains out alongside Connor Wickham but the Belgian striker is “on track” with his recovery from a knee injury sustained against Manchester City in late September.


Words: Reuben Pinder | Subbing: Oliver Browning