June 19, 2020 / 1:53 PM / 24 days ago

Hodgson says vital Premier League 'juggernaut' rolling again

LONDON (Reuters) - Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson says it was vital the Premier League “juggernaut” got back on the road after an unprecedented three-month pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

File Photo: Premier League - AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace - Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, Britain - October 1, 2018 Crystal Palace's James Tomkins clashes with Bournemouth's Steve Cook after the match REUTERS/David Klein

Hodgson has experienced more or less everything in the game in his long managerial career but this season has provided a new challenge for the former England head coach.

“It’s absolutely vital that we restarted for many reasons,” the 72-year-old told reporters via an online news conference on Friday, ahead of Palace’s trip to Bournemouth on Saturday.

“The Premier League’s survival is important to everybody. And also its important that it’s football matches and results that will decide important issues like relegation, Champions League and Europa League places.”

The stoppage in March came at a time when Palace were in fine form having won three consecutive matches to move into 11th place with 39 points, behind Burnley on goal difference.

Palace are only six points behind fifth spot, currently held by Manchester United, which could possibly provide a Champions League spot if Manchester City lose their appeal against a two-year UEFA ban from Europe.

The club has never finished higher than 10th in the Premier League and, with nine games remaining, they have 10 fewer points than their record Premier League haul.

“We have a lot to play for and looking forward to it,” Hodgson said. “The players are keen to get back to playing matches and maintaining the form we had when we were obliged to stop in March.

“But everything depends on keeping the players fit but if we can we can mount some kind of challenge. I know we are very anxious to finish in the top 10, especially as we are not far divorced from a European place.”

Hodgson’s big fear is that his squad could become over-stretched with nine games to play in 40 days.

He is already without three injured players — James Tomkins, Jeffrey Schlupp and Martin Kelly — for the first game of what Hodgson describes as a “mini-season”.

“We are very concerned because the depth of the squad,” he said. “We are not in a great position to handle that level of injuries and we are also concerned about the fatigue factor.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis

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