By Ed Elliot, PA
Roy Hodgson insists he does not feel old enough for retirement after being tempted back to Crystal Palace to take on the challenge of a Premier League relegation scrap.
The 75-year-old, who was in charge of the Eagles between 2017 and 2021, was reappointed last week on a contract until the end of the season following the sacking of Patrick Vieira.
Struggling Palace are on an alarming 12-match winless run in the top flight and sit just three points above the relegation zone going into Saturday’s home game with 17th-placed Leicester.
Former England manager Hodgson, who was unable to prevent Watford dropping into the Sky Bet Championship last term, was surprised to be approached by the south London club.
Yet he had little hesitation in returning following conversations with chairman Steve Parish and believes his pensionable age is misleading.
“I’ve accepted that I’ve retired as it were because that’s what everyone’s been saying,” said Hodgson, who is 16 years senior to the Premier League’s second oldest manager, West Ham boss David Moyes.
“I walk down the street, people say to me, ‘are you enjoying your retirement?’. But at the same time, I’ve never really felt old enough to retire, if the truth’s known.
“I know that I am, I know my birth certificate tells me I am.
“But the way I feel doesn’t really tell me that, so I suppose there has always been an opening there for a project such as this one whereby I know very clearly what the project is, what the objective is, why I’m there and what’s expected of me.
“No one is out there on my behalf looking for these things. On both occasions (Watford and Palace) it’s come my way and I’ve had the choice, do I accept or do I not accept?
“It came as a big surprise, of course. But I must say it was a pleasant surprise.”
Hodgson had 18 games in charge at Vicarage Road last season after replacing Claudio Ranieri in January 2022 and still feels scars of suffering relegation with the Hornets.
He has 10 matches to avoid suffering a similar fate at Selhurst Park but admits he can offer no guarantees going into a “dogfight” with eight rival clubs.
“I’m afraid bad experiences or unpleasant experiences like going to try and save a club from relegation and then not succeeding that scars more than teaches you, there’s no question of that,” he said.
“I’ve just got to try and make certain it doesn’t happen again because I know what a very painful and unpleasant experience it is for everyone. It affects an awful lot of people so if anything I’m determined here not to let that happen again.
“But if someone says to us ‘give us a guarantee’, I’ll say to them, ‘this is football, there are no guarantees, we’re in a fight, we’re in a dogfight’.
“We’ve got a slight advantage but not a very big one and we’ve got to make certain we do everything we can out there on the training field to prepare the team.
“Certainly I won’t be thinking very much about that experience at Watford. I’ve had to put that behind me and concentrate fully on this one.”
Palace are still awaiting their first victory of 2023, having not picked up three points since a 2-0 success at second-bottom Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve.
The Eagles have taken only five points from a possible 36 since then, registering just five goals in that period.
“It’s so easy to lose confidence, it’s so easy to let the black dog take over to some extent and make you doubt all the things that you think you’re good at doing,” said Hodgson, who has returned with long-term assistant Ray Lewington.
“Really our main task is to make certain those players don’t lose faith and they don’t start thinking we aren’t capable.
“It’s easy to say these things, it’s an easy subject to wax lyrical about but it’s another thing trying to get that to happen and get those performances on the field.”