Naveed Khan takes inspiration from another article we published to call for Hodgson to take greater prominence.
On Tuesday, Robert Sutherland wrote this piece on how the lack of communication from the club is causing friction among the fan base. Add to this the lack of joined-up strategy on and off the pitch, the issues with squad depth and three wins in nineteen, it is perhaps time for Roy Hodgson to increase his stature beyond that of Head Coach.
The manager is, in so many ways, the face of the club. He talks to the press pre and post-match. He is on the touchline and it is his team selections and tactics which get debated. Whatever hand he has been dealt with in the transfer market, he is judged on his results. For the equivalent of half a season now, the results have not been good enough – the full picture, including injuries and lack of backing in the transfer market is not shown in the record.
Hodgson is the fall guy. Regardless of what is going on at the club behind the scenes, the failings of the Sporting Director and the shortcomings of the owners, he is the face of it all and rather than (even correctly) point to the responsibility of others, he has to embrace being the fall guy.
Certain circumstances call for managers or head coaches to act not just like the man charged with coaching the team, but as if he is the manager of the club in a broader sense. Walking with the swagger of someone who owns the situation. Palace’s history is littered with such managers, whatever their success was on the pitch.
Malcolm Allison is still revered by fans who grew up with him managing the club despite multiple relegations. Steve Coppell is regarded by many as the best manager in the club’s history despite his hand in two Premier League relegations. For both, it was in no small part down to their standing up when adversity hit, taking the punches and then giving the fans something to hold on to. With the former, it was evolving the club’s identity. Coppell developed a team the fans could relate to.
There have been more recent examples. Neil Warnock stamped his mark on not just the team but the club when he first joined by giving academy player after academy player a debut. He knew the adversity post-Peter Taylor and the fans’ perception of him needed changing. Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce both imposed themselves on the club in their short tenures – it was clear they were fronting up to the situations they inherited the team in.
That is not to say Hodgson has not done that in his own quiet, dignified way. Following the Frank de Boer debacle, he most certainly did. But that was then. Now, the team is bottom of the form table, the squad has an imbalance to it and there is silence from the owners. Rather than concentrate just on preparing the team, the manager has to step up beyond his comfort zone.
The feeling is the club needs a galvanising force; something to unite the fans. Something which makes the fans feel closer to the club as it had been for much of the CPFC2010 era. The silence covered in Rob’s piece will not facilitate that – the only person who can now do that is the manager.
Team selections, tactical decisions, ignoring creative players and persisting with functional ones are all valid points of discussion around the manager. But that is not the point of this piece. At a time of uncertainty with the ownership, a standstill over Selhurst Park’s redevelopment and a stagnating squad, fans need a quick fix. We need to see something change. It is in the power of Hodgson to give us that change, that something to hold on to.
It could be any one of a number of things, from moving away from three defensive-minded midfielders to embracing one attacking one. It could be switching to a progressive 4-4-2, or setting up in a way to give Wilfried Zaha maximum freedom. Or, like with Norwich away, it could be putting trust in an academy player to make a difference to the first team.
What ultimately needs to change at Crystal Palace are elements of the ownership of the club and the associated vision and strategy going forward. Roy Hodgson cannot affect that change. But he can change what fans see on a match to match basis. He does not need to alter what has given him such longevity as a coach. He just needs to see what is happening around him at the club, understand the fans need hope and as the fall guy, he needs to give that hope to us. The mess may not be his making, but he is the one who needs to stand up while the owners remain silent.