BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
By the time Crystal Palace wrap up their extended 2019-20 season against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday 26 July, Roy Hodgson’s side would have played nine games in 37 days – one game every four days.
And with the 2020-21 Premier League due to start on 12 September, the break between the two seasons will be half that of normal, meaning concentration on this season, pre-season and next season all at the same time for the Eagles boss.
Despite this busy period, the 72-year-old is happy to be in a position where football is even being played at all.
“It’s been good, and I’ve enjoyed every minute,” said Hodgson to the South London Press. “I do enjoy working at this club, with the players, with the staff and that was a given in the first instance.
“When you’ve had it (football) taken away from you for two, two and a half months, you realise when you come back how much you’ve missed it and how much it means to you.”
After the COVID-19 break, Palace faced a trip down to Bournemouth on their return (20 June) then up to Liverpool a few days later (24 June). A home clash against Burnley (29 June) followed before a journey to Leicester last Saturday (4 July).
The packed schedule continues with Chelsea tomorrow night (7 July) ahead of two further trips to the Midlands with Aston Villa this Sunday (12 July) and Wolves two weeks’ today (20 July) with a home tie against Manchester United (16 July) sandwiched in between before that season-ender against Tottenham.
“In particular, with the squad we have [and] the situation we find ourselves in with these very tough games, I feel a little bit sorry for the players having to go so quickly from one (match) to the other. I think we could have dealt with the matches better, had there been a week in between.
“We always knew there wouldn’t be, and we always knew this problem would exist for us. But my sympathy at the moment really goes out fully to the players who have got to battle their way, to some extent, through these situations, knowing, sometimes, that we aren’t, necessarily, in the best position to be able to do so.
“I thought, even on Saturday the second goal was a decisive blow because at that time we were doing quite well in the game and yet still, you could maybe be expected – human nature wise – for the players to drop their heads a little bit, to shrug their shoulders and say ‘this is tough’, but they didn’t, they really did keep going and that in itself is a great quality.
“That is what makes me so proud of the players and proud of the team and why I still enjoy doing it so much. Long may it continue, but I’m realistic and we’ll see what happens.”
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