A victory for the Premier League's saltiest seadog.

Roy Hodgson laughing at Guardiola is the Christmas cheer we’ve all needed

It was one of life’s little victories, like finding a tenner in an old coat or walking into a pre-heated home after a cold day in the Manchester tundra.

Not that Manchester was cold on this particular December afternoon. Indeed, the crowd at Manchester City’s match with Crystal Palace could’ve been forgiven for leaving their winter jackets at home and dreaming of spring.

But, after 95 minutes of pure Barclays, City’s players and supporters would’ve been fuelled by an inner furnace to counteract any drop in temperature.

The Premier League champions looked home and dry against their mid-table opponents, coasting into a two-goal lead and looking set to consign last month’s blip to history.

Indeed, the players in light blue could’ve been forgiven for mentally finishing their Christmas shopping rather than dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s against Palace.

But Jean-Philippe Mateta pulled a goal back with 14 minutes remaining and there was more drama in stoppage time when Phil Foden caught Mateta as he attempted to clear and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot.

Michael Olise slotted the ball home and sent the travelling fans into a state of ecstasy. The other three-quarters of the Etihad fumed.

And it was a state of mind that was reflected on the touchline. As Pep Guardiola ran through his repertoire of amateur dramatics, Hodgson looked over and contorted his mouth into the most life-affirming grin.

It was hard not to feel delighted for him.

“Perhaps I took advantage of my somewhat senior position to actually say something that I know that anyone who has been in the game for any length of time would totally understand,” Hodgson said recently about his more outspoken nature in post-match interviews.

And the fact that he can see the end of his time at Palace means that there could be more where that came from, however inconvenient it might be for the authorities.

“I’m like the old people walking around the supermarket who stand around and get in your way,” he said.

“That’s what I maybe do in football terms. And maybe I have taken the liberty sometimes of saying things which are controversial or will alert people to certain things that happen in the game.

“I feel I can afford to do it at my stage of life and without having to worry about where the next job is going to come from, which some of the people around me can’t do. Because they are anxious to keep the job they have or if that job goes, to get the next one.”

And that is no longer an issue for him. “I want to do well this season, I want to help the club have a good season and that will be me finished with Crystal Palace Football Club. And whether or not I will want to continue somewhere else, I don’t know.

“My contract will be up and it will be up to me whether I want to add my name to the list of people putting their names forward for other jobs or whether I move graciously away.”

After a run of one win in 10 matches, Hodgson was entitled to celebrate this Etihad heist as a victory. He’s been around long enough to celebrate victories of any size with relish.

By Michael Lee

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