Roy Hodgson’s doomed end at Watford is set for another brutal twist | watford


give Roy Hodgson’s lifelong love of literature, he no doubt wanted the final chapter of his managerial career to end well. Unfortunately, it is not the case. After a nomadic and checkered existence spanning more than four decades, with 17 clubs as well as four international teams, the 74-year-old will retire this summer as the man who oversaw Watford’s second relegation to the Premier League in three seasons. . It was a difficult ending and for Hodgson there is the prospect of an abrupt twist.

Watford are 19th, 12 points from safety with four games to go, and will be losers if they fail to beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon. Given that they have won just two of their previous 23 games and face a side that are far superior despite a slight stagnation since last month’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea, the chances of them being victorious are slim to say the least. So it will likely be for Watford and when the final whistle sounds and the home crowd sings to the demise of a rival, their manager may well be reflecting on how so much has changed so quickly. After all, 12 months ago he was receiving adulation from Palace supporters after announcing his departure from the club after four years as manager. Taking charge of his boyhood team had been a ‘fairy tale’ and at the time he could not have imagined that his return would come under such nightmarish circumstances.

“I can’t wait to get back out there,” Hodgson said on the eve of the game. “The reception I get might be different because I don’t think Watford have ever been one of Palace’s favorite opponents. I don’t expect them to rush in and embrace me with open arms. But I’d like to think Palace fans know about Ray’s work [Lewington, Hodgson’s assistant coach] and I did it for them.

It was undeniably a good job, with Hodgson leading Palace to 11th, 12th, 14th and 14th after taking charge when the club were left without a goal, goalless and directionless following the Frank de Boer fiasco. Likewise, it was a good time for both parties to go their separate ways and for Hodgson, that was supposed to mean stopping him one day. Instead, he responded to Watford’s SOS in late January – or as he put it, “the siren call of the siren as the sailor passes on his ship” – after finding himself 19th after having burned two other managers in Xisco Muñoz and Claudio Ranieri since returning to the top flight. Hodgson was confident he could maintain them but, in fact, things got worse, with Watford losing a record 11 consecutive home games and generally behaving with a lack of leadership, defensive us and attacking grit.

Roy Hodgson waves to Crystal Palace fans in May 2021.
Roy Hodgson hails Crystal Palace fans for happier times in May 2021. Photograph: Reuters

All of this begs the question; Does Hodgson regret getting out of his slippers and returning to the managerial fray? “My only regret is that it didn’t work out the way I dreamed it would,” he replied. “But I don’t regret accepting the job and I don’t regret that the dispatch isn’t like Crystal Palace. I’ve had 46 years in this profession and I’ve come to see if your hope and ambition are that every time you quit a job you will be blown out of the ground, so you are very naive and stupid.

“Sometimes the team got pretty roughed up and I think there was a change in the way we played. The biggest regret is that it didn’t lead to the number of points we needed to stay in place – we put a lot of hope on our top players but they weren’t able to produce their best performances.

Hodgson announced this week, shortly after being awarded a CBE for his services to football, that he expects the end of the season to truly mean the end of his tenure as manager. His contract with Watford will be finished and there is no desire to seek one elsewhere. It’s time to put his family and well-being first, which was highlighted on Thursday when Hodgson revealed he had shingles, which is why he wore sunglasses in the loss of last week against Burnley.

Yet for the man who started coaching at Halmstad in 1976 and went all the way to the United Arab Emirates in search of work because there’s no such thing as a habit, Hodgson suggesting he might be tempted to return to football should the right job become available. “If one of the top three clubs suddenly decides it has to be me and they won’t accept anyone but me – who knows, I might have a twisted arm,” he said, apparently in half joking. “But I’m not looking for another arm twist. I can’t wait to get some rest and maybe have another slot to keep my brain active and feel like I have something to offer. That [role] will have to evolve over time, really.

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It’s for the future. For now, it’s the end of a trying campaign for everyone at Watford and for their manager, the 14th to be appointed by owner Gino Pozzo in the last 10 years, a particularly notable trip to south London .

“There will be emotion,” said Hodgson, after revealing he had dinner with Patrick Vieira shortly after the Frenchman took over at Selhurst Park. “I was overwhelmed with the dispatch not only from the fans, but from the club itself. I have only good things in my memory about Crystal Palace.

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