BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Roy Hodgson has admitted he is concerned at the number of Crystal Palace players who are due to be free agents at the end of June.
The Eagles chief revealed on Wednesday that Nathaniel Clyne, 29, is set to pen a new contract.
The Stockwell-born right-back signed a short-term deal in the middle of October with Nathan Ferguson – snapped up from West Bromwich Albion last summer – still sidelined due to injury issues.
But while Clyne’s future appears resolved, the same cannot be said for a hefty bulk of the playing squad.
Mamadou Sakho, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke, Patrick van Aanholt, James McCarthy, Joel Ward, Max Meyer, Scott Dann, Gary Cahill, Connor Wickham, Wayne Hennessey and Stephen Henderson are all inside the final six months of their terms.
Palace do not always make contract renewals public and there is talk that Vicente Guaita is – or has already – extended his SE25 stay.
The Premier League outfit also have options they can activate on some of those.
Asked if he was worried about the number of players coming out of contract, Hodgson replied: “I probably would lie if I said it wasn’t a concern. Of course it is. Everyone would like the ideal scenario where every player is comfortable and tied up to the club for a long period of time.
“It doesn’t happen very often. There is always a situation that most managers will find themselves in.
“But our situation is a little bit different, because we have so many of these players. I know the chairman [Steve Parish] and Doug Freedman, our sporting director, are very much aware of the situation. They are working very hard to find the right solutions when it comes to the players who are coming out of contract.
“I just have to trust that and get on, as best I can, with the players who are out there every day with me. Touch wood, so far, they have been excellent.
“I’ve seen no suggestions of a lack of morale or a lack of motivation, just because a player is perhaps currently involved in negotiations with the club’s hierarchy.”
There are plenty of Palace fans who would welcome an overhaul of the playing personnel.
But the reality is that replacing some of Palace’s more senior players – especially bringing down the average age of the squad – is liable to be expensive.
The Eagles have not been big spenders in recent years with the sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka in June 2019 helping to balance up their books.
The acquisition of QPR playmaker Eberechi Eze in August was a rare expensive outlay during Hodgson’s tenure.
“One of our concerns is an ageing squad – there’s no question of that,” said the Palace manager.
“Almost all of the players have been here with me for the three-and-a-half years I’ve been here. It’s a group of players who have been together for a long time.
“Rejuvenation is going to be necessary at some stage. You can’t keep expecting the guys who are doing it year after year to carry on doing that without any help from the outside.
“The outside means bringing in younger players who can help everybody out – that requires investment.
“It really is a question not just for me, it is a question for the club in general and, most importantly, it is a question really for the club’s owners. Because it’s all very well talking about investment and fans to go on programmes and forums who say: ‘Why don’t they buy this? Why don’t they buy that one? Why don’t they spend more money?’ – but it’s not their money.
“The people who have to put money in have to make other judgments.
“I think it’s quite obvious where we all stand on it, but it will be a question of whether the money can be found. And if the money is found, can we spend it wisely?
“It’s not even just a case of being handed a warchest. We’ve seen quite recently that managers who have been given that warchest, that it hasn’t made the teams that much better.
“I don’t think we’re getting worse as the years go by. We’re improving slightly. There isn’t any reason why – with this group – we can’t hope to get into the top half of the table. It is not something which is just in our dreams, it is in our remit.”
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