BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Back in February, Palace boss Roy Hodgson named the oldest ever Crystal Palace Premier League starting 11, with the team named against Everton having an average age of 30 years and 101 days.
Added to this, a number of injury crises affected the SE25 club last season with 11 first team players out at one point.
The South London Press asked Hodgson – who is still missing defenders Gary Cahill, Patrick Van Aanholt and James Tomkins to injury from last season, as well as suffering new injuries to Scott Dann and Jeffrey Schlupp this season – if the club would be doing anything differently this season with regards to injury prevention or if it was just old-fashioned bad luck.
“I think a lot of it was bad luck, in particular the injuries to Patrick Van Aanholt, Mamadou Sakho and Gary Cahill,” he said. “I suppose James Tomkins was a somewhat persistent calf injury, so that does come in a slightly different category, and Jeffrey Schlupp’s injury, in the same way, they are things you can do very little about; they are trauma injuries which come about through playing a lot of matches often one after the other.
“We are aware of the fact that we have very, very good centre backs but, of course, all of them are over 30, so we have to be very careful all the time how we manage them and manage the programme.
“So, in tandem with the sports science department, we are very, very conscious how hard we push the players; when is the right moment to accelerate their physical work, when is the right moment to decelerate it, so we’ll continue to do that.”
Palace play Chelsea tomorrow (3 October), and then have over two weeks before they face Brighton in a rearranged game (18 October), thanks to the international break, something which Hodgson is looking forward to in terms of assessing his walking wounded.
“With nine players away for this international break it gives us a much smaller group (and) we have a great chance to work with James Tomkins, Gary Cahill, Patrick Van Aanholt and maybe even Jeff Schlupp,” he said to the South London Press.
“The big thing is going to be, very soon, maybe even as early as after the international break we’ll have these guys knocking on my door saying; ‘well I’m fit now, I’m ready, am I going to play?’ and I’ll have to make a decision.
“At the moment in these early games we’ve had this season, the 18-man squad has basically picked itself,” he added. “The (starting) 11, especially at the centre back position, has picked itself also because Scott Dann got injured and that let Mamadou Sakho in, but it brought him in probably earlier than he would have come in had there been other centre backs available.”
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