The return of Nathaniel Clyne deepens defensive depth for Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Following his release from Liverpool, where he suffered an injury ridden spell in his later years, Nathaniel Clyne returned to the Crystal Palace starting Xi at the weekend, the club he had previously spent 13 years at as a youngster. 

He made his first team debut for the Eagles back in October 2008, where he helped his side to a 3-0 Championship victory over Barnsley at Selhurst Park. Later on, during the same week, the defender signed a three-year professional contract under Neil Warnock

“I’m a London boy, this is where I grew up. I’m back home and all my family and friends are here,” Clyne told cpfc.co.uk.

"It's surreal being back, I'm enjoying it, and hopefully I can just crack on and enjoy my football again."

Clyne's thrown in at the deep end

The experienced right full-back impressed in his first game back in Palace colours, as he was dealt with the task of keeping Ademola Lookman and Antonee Robinson quiet, and that he did, as it was only until after his substitution in the 72nd minute that Fulham were able to break the deadlock. Clyne’s confidence will only be boosted by his first Premier League start since 2019. 

Having made his international debut for England, under current Eagles' manager Roy Hodgson, he will hope to regain his past form and impress the boss once more. Clyne went on to make 14 appearances under the former international manager.

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The capture of the former England international will cause a selection headache for Hodgson, who already has an abundance of defensive talent among his ranks. Level-headed players such as that of Joel Ward will have competition for his place, while the recently signed youth-prospect, Nathan Ferguson, will have to work even more diligently when he returns from injury. 

Palace have been synonymous to defensive courage under Hodgson and they have become a well-structured side. Whilst Clyne does provide the defensive cover necessary to play an important role in the Eagles’ philosophy, he also offers more going forward in comparison to his right-back competitors.  

Clyne is a comfortable ball playing defender who has all the foundations to form a healthy triangle between himself, Luka Milivojevic and Andros Townsend. It is these triangles that will be crucial to the possession of the ball and the movement from defence to attack. 

Roy Hodgson has often found himself under scrutiny when his side have been unable to create and convert many chances throughout the season. The return of Clyne could see the Eagles play out from the back more sharply; though Palace have already shown signs of their attacking abilities early in the 20/21 season.

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Nathaniel Clyne struggled to secure a consistent starting role under Jurgen Klopp in his final years at Liverpool. The 29-year-old endured a huge blow in his career when he picked up a back injury in July 2017. The right-sided defender then picked up another long-term injury a couple years later, through a cruciate ligament rupture. 

He only really featured regularly in his first two seasons at the Premier League champions, but his chances were restricted further by the rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Neco Williams

The future

Crystal palace is home for Clyne, and his relationship with Roy Hodgson may prove to be vital in his attempt to stay fit and kick on with his topsy-turvey career. Palace is perhaps the best chance the former Liverpool man has of revitalising his footballing days.

Though only a short-term deal, Eagles' fans will hope that Clyne can regain his past form and bolster Palace’s options at right-back. When fit, he is more than capable of making the difference in defence and it will be interesting to see where he starts come Friday night when Palace take the trip to high flying, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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