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The three candidates primed to replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace

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crystal palace manager candidates roy hodgson replacements 2024-25

Many expect 2023-24 to be Roy Hodgson’s last season at Crystal Palace. Who should The Eagles be looking at to replace their manager when the time comes?

At 76, Roy Hodgson’s storied career nears its conclusion. As a manager for nearly 50 years, he’s coached in Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Norway and led the England national team’s unsuccessful 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil.

After Patrick Vieira was sacked, Hodgson arrived at Crystal Palace at the back end of the 2022-23 season and immediately turned Palace’s fortunes around, snapping a 12-game winless run and winning 50% of the season’s 10 remaining games, collecting 16 of the club’s 45 points all year.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2024 and it looks like Roy’s Palace reign is drawing to a close. The shine has worn off, leading the side beginning the new year fighting for mid-table and flirting with the relegation zone. Their top-flight status might be helped by Everton and Nottingham Forest’s punishments for breaching the profit and sustainability rules, but they remain closer to the edge than they’d like to be.

With Hodgson’s one-year contract concluding at the end of the 2023-24 season, all roads point to his likely Palace departure. Which managers are best suited to replace him?

roy hodgson, graham potter, premier league, manager, sacking
Should Graham Potter be the front-runner to replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace?

Replacing Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace: Three candidates

Graham Potter

His Chelsea spell may be the most chaotic in football history, but that shouldn’t detract from Graham Potter’s managerial brilliance. He’s shown a propensity throughout his career to take small, unheralded sides, like Brighton and Östersunds, to new heights.

A tactically complex manager, Potter sets his sides up to be systemically flexible, dominant in possession and defensively astute. His 2021-22 Brighton side kept 11 clean sheets — fifth most in the Premier League, had 54% possession, and created 1.6 big chances per game, with control often their strongest form of defence.

Such is his coaching nous, that campaign, which saw Brighton finish a then club-high ninth place, saw the side operate in several systems; 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 5-4-1, 3-4-2-1. That sums Graham Potter up; flexible and fluid, able to adapt game plans to suit certain opponents.

This skill was key in Brighton beating larger opposition, like Manchester United, who they beat 4-0 at the back end of 2021-22 and 2-1 at the beginning of 2022-23.

It was also this skill, amongst others, that proved a major part of his undoing at Chelsea. That spell in London has hindered brand Graham Potter. In a matter of months, he went from one of Europe’s most promising managers to someone widely viewed as untouchable.

The reality is more nuanced. Potter appears to be more adept at managing smaller clubs as opposed to behemoths of the game, like Chelsea. The Englishman was one of several candidates sounded out by Palace chairman at the end of last year, meaning he’s already highly regarded at Selhurst Park.

If he replaces Roy, Potter will assume control of a talented, if frustrating, Palace side. He’s shown enough to suggest he’s capable of extracting maximum output from the entire side, not just its stars.

Steve Cooper

Nottingham Forest’s former manager may feel unlucky to be out of work at the moment. Having returned Forest to the Premier League, Steve Cooper was adored throughout the city, even when results weren’t going his way.

A flood of new signings into the club, some necessary, others not so much, disrupted Cooper’s flow following promotion, creating an unstable working environment where more players were bound to be unhappy than happy. In 2022-23, Forest finished four points above the drop zone, conceding 68 goals – the Premier League’s fourth leakiest defence. Not great, but better than relegation.

That season, Forest barely had the ball – averaging just 37% possession – and scored just a goal a game. These aren’t pretty stats for even the most devout Steve Cooper disciple. Yet ask any Forest fan about him though and they’ll sing his praises, celebrating him as their greatest ever manager outside of Brian Clough.

Similar to Graham Potter, Cooper is tactically adaptable, with a set of beliefs he follows, if not strictly, knowing that at the top level, especially for mid-level clubs like Forest, the best ability is adaptability.

He’s on record telling Sky Sports that ‘coaching is about doing things in a way that you believe in but it is also about living in the moment and adapting. In the modern game, teams play a couple of formations in one game, they can be effective playing in different ways. Football has never been so fluid.’

In the 2022-23 campaign, his Forest side rolled out various formations depending on opposition and their own availability, including 4-3-3, 3-5-2, and 4-3-1-2, amongst others. Again, it’s hard to ignore the similarities with Potter.

At international level, Cooper won the Under-17 World Cup with England in 2017. That side featured Phil Foden, Conor Gallagher, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and perhaps crucially Crystal Palace vice-captain, Marc Guehi.

Palace fans mightn’t be inspired by his Premier League tenure at Forest. What cannot be discredited is how he lifted the club from third bottom in the Championship to the top flight. That is a remarkable feat that takes exceptional tactical knowledge, man management and motivational skills.

Much like Potter, Cooper was on the shortlist of managers Steve Parish assessed prior to renewing Roy’s contract at the end of the 2022-23 season, meaning he too is highly touted at the London club.

Paddy McCarthy

Perhaps the most straightforward replacement for Roy Hodgson is already at Crystal Palace. A former coach of several of the club’s junior sides, Paddy McCarthy is currently the club’s assistant manager, positioning himself as Roy’s most likely successor.

Of the three, McCarthy is the most unknown quantity, having never managed at a professional level in a non-caretaker capacity. His one match in charge of Crystal Palace, following Patrick Vieira’s sacking, was a 4-1 loss to a high-flying Arsenal side in March 2023 that shouldn’t be read into at all.

What can be appreciated is the tutelage he’d have gained from Roy Hodgson in the last 18 months. Hodgson may not be English football’s most appreciated football managers but few can argue his storied career of innovation and success.

Roy’s guided Inter Milan and Fulham unsuccessful to the UEFA Cup/Europa League final and is celebrated in Sweden as one of the nation’s finest football innovators. McCarthy has first-hand ability to drink in all the key learnings and failures of Roy’s career in preparation for potentially succeeding him.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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2 Responses

  1. Interesting choices for Roy Hodgson’s replacements at Crystal Palace! I think Patrick Vieira would be a great fit, he has a lot of experience in the Premier League and has shown his ability to get the best out of his players. Another option could be Carlos Carvalhal, he has a proven track record of improving teams and getting them promoted. Finally, Eddie Howe has shown promise in his time at Bournemouth and could bring a fresh perspective to Palace. It will be exciting to see who Hodgson chooses to succeed him!

  2. I completely agree with the author’s choice for Hodgson’s replacement. Mark Hughes has shown in the past that he can get the best out of his players and guide them to success. His experience as a manager and his ability to motivate his players make him an ideal candidate for the job. I think he would be a great fit for Crystal Palace and could help the team achieve its potential.

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