How Palace have gone from relegation candidates to flirting with a European place  
(Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Before the winter break, there was a dark cloud looming over Selhurst Park; many were feeling rather disconnected with the club and the general consensus was that the board had yet again settled for a "just surviving" attitude.

Many associated with the club were fearful that this year could be our last in the top flight, with an almost certainty that our stint in the League was coming to an unsavoury end.

However, since the return from the two week rest period, the club has managed its first three wins in succession since 2017 and catapulted themselves from a potential planning of Wigan away next season to dreaming of a European tour, and finally shattering the glass ceiling that the club has longed for since establishing itself as part of the Premier League furniture. 

How the fortunes have changed

Wins against positional rivals in Newcastle, Watford and Brighton have seen the mentality flip at Selhurst Park. The performances have improved dramatically, with the team pressing much higher up the pitch, and there is now an urgency about the attacking phase of play.

Jordan Ayew's rich vein of form has been a welcome surprise addition to the team that had the joint lowest scorers in the Football League along with Stevenage not too long ago. His hard work off the ball has also proved a big weapon in Palace's arsenal, which is a significant part of Hodgson's style of play.

Luka Milivojevic's injury has almost been somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the Eagles it seems. The Serbian international, who has been capped 36 times by his country, is having a moderately poor season in comparison to his previous standards. His goal contributions have dried up, due to the lack of penalties the team has been awarded this season. Furthermore, his performances this season have led to many Palace fans hounding for him to be dropped, even prior to the injury he sustained. 

This injury has facilitated the blossoming centre-midfield partnership of James McArthur, James McCarthy and Cheikhou Kouyate. The three have created a base for Palace to defend in the way Hodgson likes his personnel to set out, but also have the ability to play with the creativity the fans had been crying longing for, since the start of the season.

What Europe would mean to Palace

Despite the fact that European football still remains a distant dream for many in SE25, what it would mean to the club would eclipse any Palace fan's wildest imagination. 

The last and only time Palace had ventured into Europe, apart from Cardiff away last season, was when they competed in the Inter-Toto Cup in 1998. They faced Turkish side, Samsunspor, who proved tricky opponents for the Eagles and quickly put the dream of European glory to bed for now.   

Ever since Palace established itself as a member of the League, which has the capabilities to go toe to toe with the big hitters, the main ambition has been to break the mould and qualify for a place in European football. They tried to reach the promised land of Europe before by signing big named players on very high wages, such as Christian Benteke, Mamadou Sakho, Yohan Cabaye and Steve Mandanda. However, it seems that the astute signings of Vicente Guaita, Jordan Ayew, Gary Cahill and James McCarthy have helped to get Palace much closer to reaching this goal.

European football could also mean that golden boy, Wilfried Zaha, could stay at the club in the summer window. With many teams uncertain about paying Crystal Palace's valuation of the forward, if the club was to reach a Europa League spot, it could signal that the Ivory Coast international could play out the rest of his career in South East London, with this summer being very much "now or never" if Zaha was to ever leave Palace. 

How poetic it would be for Hodgson

After putting pen to paper on a one-year contract extension not too long ago, the 72-year-old Hodgson will almost certainly be entering his last year in football management.

It is a career that has seen him start in Sweden, manage some of the biggest clubs in the world in Inter Milan and Liverpool,  taking Fulham to the Europa League final, and achieving probably the biggest accolade in English football, by managing his national side in a European Championship, and in a World Cup, then finishing off at his boyhood club of Crystal Palace.

In spite of the fact that Hodgson achieved much more than many other managers will ever accomplish, his stints at Liverpool and England proved challenging for Hodgson, with most fans from Liverpool feeling that he was way out of his depth and not fit to be at the helm of the Merseyside club.

Most England fans would agree, saying that Roy Hodgson's England team was way below the standard that it should have been and that he was never the right man to be in the prestigious England hot seat.

Despite his time in these roles, if you ask any Fulham, West Brom and the majority of Palace fans, they would speak of Roy Hodgson in glowing terms.

His time at Fulham saw them come a game away from winning the Europa League, only losing to an Atletico Madrid side in extra time of the final, containing superstars in the shape of young goalkeeper  David De Gea and a veteran striker Diego Forlan.

His resolute Fulham side was one to be admired by many and Palace will be hoping for some financial backing and investment in the team in the summer. Hodgson could pull off one of his greatest accomplishments yet, taking Palace where they thought impossible reach almost a decade ago when the club was hours away from folding.

The Eagles play Bournemouth this coming weekend and will be hoping to make it four wins on the trot, and continue to try and keep the fire of finishing in the European places dream alight.

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