BY ANDREW McSTEEN
It will be 106 days between Premier League games for Crystal Palace when they line up away at Bournemouth on June 20, having beaten Watford in their previous match, back on March 7.
The 7:45pm kick-off will be shown live on BBC – the first-ever Premier League match to do so and could even set a league record for the biggest TV audience in the UK, but the extended break in match action due to the coronavirus league shutdown means Eagles’ manager Roy Hodgson may have to adapt his plans as he plots a rise up the table in their remaining nine games.
“We had already prepared for the Bournemouth game, of course, and we had our analysis there right in front of us,” said Hodgson, talking to the South London Press on Zoom. “What we might not know is quite what’s happening in Bournemouth and I don’t know if we’ll get any chance to really, or if they will be playing any friendly matches or not, and if they do, whether we get any access.
“These are things I couldn’t possibly tell you, but we know pretty much what we were preparing for had we played the game when we were originally meant to, on March 14, so that work is already done.”
With the Palace squad now back in full group contact training Hodgson admitted to the South London Press that it is “almost normal” on the training ground, but with Premier League safety measures in place, under government guidance, Hodgson and his coaching team are looking forward to when everything returns to normal.
“No-one is allowed in the building. We just work on the training field and then get in our cars and go home, in-between the testing,” said Hodgson, referring to the twice-weekly tests for COVID-19.
“When we get our analysts back their work is going to be very important, least of all in terms of making certain we catch up with what we were doing (before the lockdown); the way we were playing and the good form that the boys were in – they had a chance to see that.
“The analysts will play a big part in making certain that we remember what we were doing in those games leading up to that, and what we are going to need to continue doing to get these nine matches played and try to keep ourselves moving forward and maintain our position in the table.”
Three wins in a row before the break saw Hodgson’s men move into 11th place in the table, four points behind sixth spot, on 39 points, and the Palace manager was heartened to see that his players returned with the good spirit they had before.
“We’re lucky that our group dynamic is good anyway and that’s played a large part in the success that the team has had in the last couple of seasons,” said Hodgson.
“This year, to be in 11th place, with the highest number of points I think we’ve had in the Premier League over 29 games, that’s been largely due to the quality of the group, the dynamics within the group, the way they interact with each other and the respect they have for each other.
“When they first returned to training, they were very pleased to see each other, but they kept the social distancing of course – they didn’t allow their joy at seeing each other breach any rules. It wasn’t difficult to do that, but that’s where you would have felt (they might) as they were so pleased to see each other, but they didn’t get so close.
“As far as I am concerned, I didn’t see any individual who showed any signs other than it was so good to be back to work,” added Hodgson when asked if any players needed any extra attention after being away so long.
“I’m grateful to what Dr Zaf [Iqbal – head of sports medicine] and Scott [Guyett – head of sport science and strength & conditioning) had done up to that point in terms of getting them into a situation where they could leave their home, they could get back to work and they could meet their team-mates once again.”
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Cheques should be made payable to “MSI Media Limited” and sent 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. Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.
Get the latest local news delivered every week!