Soccer

Roy Hodgson hails Crystal Palace recruitment under Dougie Freedman

Roy Hodgson has praised sporting director Dougie Freedman for helping assemble Crystal Palace’s squad (Steven Paston/PA)
Roy Hodgson has praised sporting director Dougie Freedman for helping assemble Crystal Palace’s squad (Steven Paston/PA) Roy Hodgson has praised sporting director Dougie Freedman for helping assemble Crystal Palace’s squad (Steven Paston/PA)

Roy Hodgson has praised the work of Crystal Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman in helping assemble the club’s sought-after young stars at Selhurst Park.

The club has seen the value of players bought for relatively modest sums rocket in recent seasons, with winger Michael Olise – an £8million buy from Reading two summers ago – the subject of an unsuccessful £35m bid from Chelsea this week.

Palace’s long stay in the Premier League has largely been built on shrewd work in the transfer market, plucking lesser-known young players from the Championship or overseas and giving them the chance to prove themselves in the top flight.

Eberechi Eze joined from QPR in 2021 and has grown to become a key member of the team’s front line, while defenders Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen and midfielder Cheick Doucoure have also flourished since arriving at Selhurst Park.

Doucoure, who played 34 times in the league in his debut campaign in England last season, has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp looks to rebuild his team’s midfield, and former Chelsea academy player Guehi has become an England international.

Hodgson acknowledged that transfer fees across the board have risen sharply in recent seasons, highlighting Brighton as an example in the week that they received a British record £115m fee from Chelsea for Moises Caicedo.

Dougie Freedman
Dougie Freedman Dougie Freedman was appointed Palace’s sporting director in 2017 (Nick Potts/PA)

But he was equally keen to point to the influence of Freedman, who made more than 350 appearances for Palace during two spells as a player, in keeping his squad stocked with bright prospects who are catching the eye of bigger sides.

“You’ve only got to turn to Brighton; Caicedo and(Alexis) Mac Allister,” said Hodgson. “That’s an incredible leap, those players; £4m for Caicedo to £115m. They sold Mac Allister for over £50m.

“The prices these days are getting very, very high. I don’t think we should be surprised anymore by that. We were lucky as Brighton were lucky in identifying a very good young player that didn’t cost enormous sums of money at that time.

“What they saw in him, the potential, developed, and he becomes a player that then gets put into a category where this is the level the player is at. All of our players have done that, it’s not just Michael. It’s Eze without a doubt, it’s Doucoure without a doubt, it’s the two centre-backs (Guehi and Andersen) without a doubt, it’s (defender) Tyrick Mitchell.

“All these players are in a category that they probably weren’t in when the club bought them.

“The recruitment has been good. Dougie Freedman has done very well, I think the money has always been limited. It’s not been a question of just go out, there’s a blank chequebook, find a player you think the club needs. He’s had to do it within budget restrictions which the club has to respect and adhere to.”

Freedman was manager at Palace at the beginning of the season in which they won promotion to the Premier League in 2012/13.

He guided the club into the top six in the Championship in October before leaving to take charge of Bolton.

Ian Holloway took over and guided the team up via the play-offs, but Freedman is credited with laying the foundations, having been appointed in 2011 with the club languishing in the Championship relegation zone.

He was appointed sporting director in 2017 after a brief stint managing Nottingham Forest.

“We’re in a majority of clubs,” said Hodgson. “The minority are the ones who can pluck players at whatever price the club is asking. I think the club has given them a good platform to develop their skills and become the Premier League players that obviously Dougie thought they were going to be when he watched them play.

“When he ’s watching Joachim Andersen at Fulham, who’s come on loan from a German club; when he’s watching Marc Guehi at Swansea; when he’s watching Doucoure play in France; when he’s watching Michael at Reading; when he’s watching Ebs (Eze) at QPR. That’s the work that goes in.

“There’s still a leap of faith needed. Today you’d say Eze was cheap. Well he wasn’t for us when we bought him. When we paid £16m, that wasn’t cheap at all. That was a big transfer.

“But thanks to Doug’s work, it’s paid off. I like to think that the atmosphere, the environment, the way the club is and the way it operates, gives people a nice platform if you like to show their skills and to become better players.

“You can go back further. (Aaron) Wan-Bissaka we sold (to Manchester United) for £50m.”