When Roy Hodgson finally bows out, we’ll miss him. We’ll miss his dignity, his honesty and humility; one of football’s genuine gentleman.
Courteous, approachable and funny; the antonym of what the game has become.
But don’t be fooled, there’s a hardened side to Hodgson. Forty-seven years in management can do that to a nice guy.
Those who have been on the receiving end of his sharp tongue will testify to the other side of Hodgson’s character.
The steely side. The side driven by an unrelenting urge for success, to prove guys like him don’t finish last.
Roy Hodgson will be missed when his career in football management comes to an end
Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish is coming under increasing pressure to sack Hodgson
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So, when Hodgson emerges from the Selhurst Park tunnel to take on Brentford on Saturday afternoon, don’t think for a second he doesn’t realise what is at stake.
Eight matches without victory has left Hodgson’s position in danger.
It must be stressed that since a 2-0 home loss to Bournemouth that triggered such a toxicity from supporters, there have been shoots of improvement.
They were on course for victory against Liverpool before a controversial Jordan Ayew red card paved the way for a 2-1 victory for the Merseysiders.
They’ve drawn at Manchester City and against Brighton in recent days and only suffered defeat away to Chelsea on Wednesday night after a 89th minute penalty awarded by VAR.
But it’s close two months without a win. There’s no escaping the facts.
Palace are close to two months without a win, with confidence in Hodgson ebbing away
At 76, this job is very likely to be Hodgson’s last – although he was supposed to have retired when he first left Palace in 2021 before returning to work with Watford a few months later.
But surely there’ll be no third coming of Hodgson and his trusty No 2 Ray Lewington once their second stint at Palace ends.
Chairman Steve Parish will lead that decision. Indeed, the co-owner’s close bond with Hodgson will likely be a key factor when considering the probability of the former England manager being shown the door in the event of defeat on Saturday.
Parish is rich in respect and admiration for Hodgson, who cemented Palace’s top-flight status for four years from 2017.
He did so again earlier this year when parachuted in following Patrick Vieira’s sacking. The connection runs deep.
Former Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper could be considered if Hodgson is sacked
In an ideal world, Hodgson would see out the season before sauntering off into the sunset with Lewington into permanent retirement.
But the pressure is growing on Parish to accelerate that process. Internally, prominent members of the club’s hierarchy believe a decision to replace Hodgson should have been made already.
There’s a belief that Hodgson should be extracting more from what is viewed to be one of the most talented squads outside the top-eight.
Externally, the fanbase are turning; with many wanting Hodgson replaced by a younger coach who can implement a vision for the future.
Among those the club will give serious consideration to if Hodgson is dismissed are Steve Cooper, Julen Lopetgui and Kieran McKenna.
Palace had a conversation with Olivier Glasner before handing Hodgson a new 12 month contract in pre-season and he could still emerge as an option, while Paddy McCarthy – part of Hodgson’s backroom team – may also become a short-term option.
Yet, for all the reasons and the temptations to sack Hodgson, there has been a reluctance to do so.
Hodgson has expressed the importance of Crystal Palace avoiding relegation this season
Indeed, even up to Friday afternoon there was some doubt over whether Parish would be willing to part with Hodgson even if Palace lose to Brentford.
But that said, the one scenario that will inevitably push Palace into action will be the threat of relegation.
In a season that was supposed to see Palace become upwardly mobile, they’ve slipped worryingly towards another fight to stay in the division.
With Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, Marc Guehi and Sam Johnstone in the ranks it is difficult to argue against assertions that Palace are underperforming.
In mitigation, Hodgson has been dealt an unfortunate hand with injuries but the fact Palace could find themselves in the relegation zone this weekend does not reflect well.
And ultimately, if the axe does fall, it’ll be the prospect of playing Championship football – and the financial uncertainty it creates – that will do for Hodgson.
‘We still are in a situation at the club where avoiding relegation has got to be the main concern,’ said Hodgson.
‘I think we can do better than that. But it is a different level, if you like, and I think to go out like we’ve done in the last four games and give such a good account of ourselves against top opponents that should give me heart,’ said Hodgson.
Hodgson has never been lacking in heart. Wins, though, that’s where he is lacking at the moment.