“Do you want the truth? No not really,” Hodgson said when asked if he had sent on Mateta in the expectation of him scoring such a vital goal. “When we signed him I remember the first conversation I had with him. He said I’m a goalscorer you can trust in me I will get you some goals. But to be honest he didn’t.”
Under Hodgson’s predecessor, Patrick Vieira, Palace were a side which appeared to have entered a terminal downward spiral. They had not won since New Year’s Eve. What Hodgson appreciated was that this was a false picture. He knew most of the players, knew they should not be in such a position. And he took no credit for the apparent sudden transformation.
“I haven’t changed their mentality,” he said. “There is a very good mentality, particularly with the players who were here in my four years. And I’m pleased to see the mentality of the new ones. They have been very well recruited, they’ve made the team better.”
The fact is if the attitude displayed in victory over a dogged, determined Leicester side – who themselves are now in serious jeopardy – continues, Hodgson might well engineer a significant turnaround. He is certainly blessed with his fixture list. Palace’s next five games are against those in the relegation dogfight: Leeds, Southampton, Everton, Wolves and West Ham. As final encores go, on this evidence his could turn out to be memorable indeed.
Last-gasp goal gives Hodgson winning return to Selhurst Park
By Jim White, at Selhurst Park
In South London they must have wondered why he had been away for so long. Roy Hodgson’s age-defying return to his boyhood club began with the most dramatic of triumphs. After the substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta’s thumper of a goal in the 94th minute had gifted Crystal Palace three points that – for now at least – lifts them well above the relegation fray, the returning manager left the field to rapturous applause. How they love the old boy at Selhurst: even his use of replacements seems to work.
Though for Hodgson the relief would have been tinged with concern. Because just before half-time there had been a moment when he must have wondered why he took Steve Parish’s call to come back.
There was his team full of effort and initiative, leading in every statistic bar the one that matters – goals – when his captain Wilfried Zaha stretched and went straight down, clutching at the top of his thigh. Something had gone. Something serious. Hodgson, rightly, looked perplexed. And he gave his captain a sympathetic embrace as Zaha limped off the pitch, tears streaming down his face in recognition of the seriousness of his injury.