BY ANDREW McSTEEN
Ahead of Crystal Palace’s away league clash against Chelsea today in the early kick off (12:30), all the talk was about their former captain Gary Cahill returning to the club where he won a plethora of honours, including the Champions League.
In fact, the west London club were in Champions League action earlier in the week, drawing 4-4 with Ajax on Tuesday night with the Dutch club training at the Eagles’ Beckenham training ground on Wednesday.
But for Hodgson, who will celebrate his 300th Premier League game in charge today, there was not much he could have learnt from Chelsea’s most-recent opponents ahead of the top-10 clash.
“I remember being told and agreeing to them training here but, quite frankly, quite a lot’s been going on for us and in my life and it even slipped my mind that they were training,” said Hodgson to the South London Press. “So even if I wanted to [watch it] someone would have had to told me ‘don’t forget Ajax are here today’ and no one did.
“However, watching a team train the night or day before they play a Champions League game I could probably tell you what they did without seeing it. It’s certainly something that I would have watched and not thought ‘I’ve never seen that before’ because I know what you do when you’re playing a Champions League game.
“The day before the game you’re doing your 40 minute training session, and I’ve got a pretty good idea what they do, but I am sure the coach is a very interesting man to talk to and I’m also pretty sure that when they came here to train his only interest was getting that match day mind as one session.”
So will Hodgson hope for a 4-4 action-packed draw later today?
“I don’t think [the likelihood of] that will be very high and these days when it’s all about betting I don’t think there are many punters out there betting on us getting a 4-4 draw, there might be a few betting on us getting a draw, but not a 4-4.”
With around 1,500 games in management in total, Hodgson is well-experienced in the different preparation needs for teams and in the modern-day Premier League era, the early kick-off today does not pose any issues like they did when they first introduced.
“You get used to it now don’t you?,” he said to the South London Press. “It’s something that’s been going on for several years.
“I think when we came away from a traditional 3pm kick-off – and virtually everyone played at three then – the first time it was introduced there were some teething problems and the sports science people had a few headaches working out ‘well what do we do now?’, but we’re so used to it now.
“Generally through the course of every season we’ll have two or three early kick offs, two or three late kick offs, a few Sunday games and probably a Monday game or two and you just get used to that and you prepare your week accordingly – we’ve had all week to prepare for this game and the fact that is an early kick off hasn’t had any effect on us whatsoever.”
PICTURE BY KEITH GILLARD