By Andrew McSteen
A settled Crystal Palace squad has been a rarity for Roy Hodgson in 2020 – and last time out against Fulham on Saturday it was no different.
Left back Patrick Van Aanholt returned to action after a shoulder injury last season, coming on as a 72nd minute sub for Nathaniel Clyne.
The newly signed right back Clyne was also returning to action after a long-term injury lay-off and had come in for usual right back Joel Ward, who was ruled out late in the build-up to the game.
This meant that Tyrick Mitchell, having started against the West Londoners at left back, moved over to right back, with Van Aanholt moving into his usual position – a real juggling act from Hodgson and his coaching staff.
“I wouldn’t really say we are necessarily looking to make the competition between those four players in full back positions such that ‘you can have a few minutes, and someone can come in and take your place’, as full backs tend to be 90-minute players,” said Hodgson to the South London Press when asked if he would consider making the interchange of full backs a more regular occurrence.
“With only three substitutions, more often than not in teams it’s the full backs who take on the large burden of playing through matches. It tends to be more front players and midfield players who get substituted or brought into the game to change it in some way. But it’s very good to have the competition, that’s for sure, and vital, because we have not had that.”
In fact, summer signing Nathan Ferguson, who was brought in as a long-term replacement for Ward, is still recovering himself from injury and even though he admitted it is healthy to have players competing for places, Hodgson revealed it was that very lack of experienced first team depth that led to some academy breakthroughs.
“To be fair, the lack of competition, you could argue, has produced two fantastic footballers for the club,” said Hodgson, looking back on previous injury crises.
“[Aaron] Wan-Bissaka came in from the cold pretty much unknown, not only to the outside world but not really well known to us, because he’d hardly trained with us. He got thrown in at the deep end, against a top-four team (Tottenham), and we found ourselves a great right back.
“And the same happened with Tyrick Mitchell,” he added. “Patrick’s injury opened the door, he jumped in and took his opportunity as well as you could ever wish to see someone take an opportunity.
“So, we’re very happy for him in that respect. His progress has been excellent, and I can only hope that the knock he received yesterday in training in a challenge isn’t going to be a particularly serious one which will keep him out for any length of time.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.