Roy Hodgson admitted his relief after Crystal Palace beat West Ham 4-3 to move to 40 points and all but assure themselves of Premier League safety.
When the 75-year-old stepped back into the Selhurst Park dugout at the beginning of this month he had inherited a side entrenched in a relegation battle and significantly struggling in attack.
Palace have been transformed under him since and the win over David Moyes’ men lifted them into 11th place and ahead of Chelsea, who have played two fewer matches.
Palace were unnerved when Tomas Soucek fired the Hammers into an early lead and goals from Jordan Ayew, Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp made it 3-1.
Michail Antonio pulled a goal back before the break but Eberechi Eze restored Palace’s two-goal advantage from the penalty spot and, although Nayef Aguerd kept the Hammers’ hopes alive with a third for the visitors, Palace held firm for the win.
Hodgson is hopeful that Palace will push on for the remaining four games despite looking clear of the menace of relegation.
“It is up to the players,” said Hodgson. “I don’t often share what I say to the players in the dressing room but I can share this. I said ‘it’s up to you’. Nothing is going to change as far as Ray [Lewington], Paddy McCarthy and I are concerned.
“We will all work exactly the same way, but only you can get that fire, that desire to make the extra run, to win the challenge, only you can do that. I think you could take this as far as you want.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to win four more games, but I don’t think we’re incapable of winning them.
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“At the same time the sword has been removed from my head, it’s been removed from the players’ heads.
“We will keep the sword where it is as far as we’re concerned, because we like to win games and we like to come away from every performance, even if it is a defeat thinking ‘well done, boys. You did well, you played the right football, not dissatisfying in any way. Didn’t work out this time, onto the next one’.
“That’s our attitude. I can’t guarantee what the players’ attitude will be, but I would think they would share that belief.”
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