Soccer: Hodgson sees salvation with help from fans
By Steve Tongue
LONDON (Reuters) - Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson believes that the loyalty of his club's supporters can underpin a successful recovery from the worst-ever start in 25 years of the Premier League and help the club avoid another return to the Championship.
A last-minute goal to beat Stoke City 2-1 on Saturday earned a second win of a season that had begun catastrophically with seven successive defeats, in which Palace did not score even once.
The vastly experienced Hodgson replaced Dutchman Frank de Boer after only four of those games and has brought about a noticeable improvement.
Since belatedly getting points on the board with a dramatic 2-1 win over the champions Chelsea, Palace have drawn two other home games and now won another one in front of their enthusiastic self-styled "ultras", who received as much praise as the players from Hodgson.
"There's a lot of fight in the team and the crowd who were incredible today," he said.
"No-one was leaving. This club has the capability to fight to the end and if we're going to survive after the hole we dug for ourselves we're going to need that on and off the field. They are a massive help to us, the crowd."
No team have been relegated from the Premier League as often as the South Londoners, who on four previous occasions since 1992 lasted only one season.
Doggedly coming up from the Championship (second tier) yet again in 2013, they finally seemed to have stabilised, only to lose their way when attempting to take a new direction this season under De Boer.
Now Hodgson, a local man and boyhood Palace fan himself, has come full circle, hoping to put the disappointments and frustrations of being England manager behind him.
"Fortune smiled on us and we got the last-minute winner worth its weight in gold," he said of Saturday's morale-boosting victory.
"We've been bemoaning our fate that we haven't had that little bit of luck these last four or five games.
"We've got to keep working, keep doing what we're doing and most importantly not slip below the standard we've set ourselves."
(Reporting by Steve Tongue; Editing by Toby Davis)