LONDON (Reuters) - Once seen as the whipping boys of the Premier League after making the worst start to a top-flight English league campaign, Crystal Palace have been led by the revitalised Roy Hodgson to become one of the most stubborn teams in the division.
With no points or goals from their first seven matches, the South London side are now knocking on the door of the top half of the table after their latest result, a 1-0 win at home to Burnley on Saturday, and riding high on confidence ahead of a trip north of the river to face Arsenal next week.
On top of that, Hodgson is receiving plaudits that must have seemed a dream when he came to the end of his tenure as England manager following defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.
Since taking over from the sacked Frank De Boer last September, Hodgson has led Palace to 25 points, 21 goals and 12th in the standings, five points clear of the relegation zone.
Arguably, their most impressive result so far was ending Manchester City’s 18-match winning spree with a 0-0 draw that Palace would have won had Luka Milivojevic not missed a penalty in second-half injury time.
But Palace’s revival has also helped rejuvenate the standing of 70-year-old Hodgson, who appeared to reach his career’s nadir in England’s last-16 elimination from Euro 2016 by Iceland.
His decision to return to management with the Eagles initially looked ill-judged when he lost his first three league games in charge.
But with the help of former England assistant coach Ray Lewington and former Blackburn Rovers player Steven Reid, whom he appointed as assistant manager and first-team coach respectively, Hodgson has swept all doubts and criticisms aside.
Burnley manager Sean Dyche took time after Saturday’s match to pay tribute to Hodgson and his staff.
“Roy sometimes gets mixed reviews, but the years of service to the game, and the levels he has worked at, he gets nothing but respect from me, I can assure you,” Dyche told a news conference. “He is doing terrific. It’s fantastic what he’s done here. He’s settled it down nicely.
“I know Ray Lewington and Steve Reid very well. It’s not a surprise to me that Roy’s work and the coaches’ work has progressed the team. That’s down to Roy and his staff putting in good work and the players delivering it.”
Hodgson said after the Burnley victory that Palace’s focus remains on avoiding relegation, but if the club’s and his own revivals continue, a top-half finish appears to be the more likely outcome.
Reporting by Matt Westby; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar