To explain what motivates him to remain in football management even at the age of 73, Roy Hodgson recalls a conversation with Swedish football icon Orvar Bergmark.

I went to Orebro [in 1983] to get them back into the Swedish top division, but after seven games we were in the bottom three, he began. I was confused, frustrated and at the end of my rope. Orvar and I used to go to lunch on Wednesdays. We walked through the streets of Orebro and people almost bowed to him.

One Wednesday I see him bragging on the street, and when we’re in a restaurant, he says: You know what? I envy you. I thought he was kidding. You are Orvar Bergmark, the Swedish legend. How can you be jealous of me?

He said: You always have something to look forward to. In my current job [he would become a sports consultant], I get up every day, go to work, go home, I don’t have to wait for anything. What about you? They always have the next game. Even if you lose, you still have the idea that I will win next time.

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It’s something I’ve been experiencing my whole life, because I think sometimes you forget. In moments of despair and disappointment, you can forget that you are lucky because you have something to look forward to. And you can win, it can be a joyous experience.

It is this attitude that explains the remarkable longevity of Hodgson, whose coaching career spanned 46 seasons, working with 20 different teams in eight countries.

He is a nomad who has come full circle, taking over the reins of Crystal Palace in September 2017 after growing up a mile from Selhurst Park at Sydenham Road – he recalls going to games as a child with his father driving the bus, Bill.

Despite the introductory anecdote, Hodgson doesn’t want to remember what happened. Many of his colleagues had already bought property there, he said. But Hodgson only gave himself the exclusive interview with ESPN after it was announced last week that he will receive the Outstanding Contribution Award at the London Football Awards next month.

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I think it’s dangerous to look back anyway, because things always look better from a distance, he explained. Think back to those early years, and anything you don’t like about your job now will tell you: well, it wasn’t like that 46 years ago, or 35 years ago, or 23 years ago. The answer is probably that you just forgot and decided to remember the good parts.

I’m very happy that people find me worthy, but I don’t let it take up too much of my time. I prefer to live in the present.

For nearly 50 years Hodgson’s management of football has been guided by his philosophy of taking one day at a time and one game at a time. Sebastian Frege/MB Media/Getty Images

Hodgson’s life in football has not been without difficult moments, but there is peace around him these days. Palace are safely in the middle of the table, 11 points above the relegation zone in 11th place with 9 games to play. His contract expires at the end of the season, and sources told ESPN that negotiations on a new deal have yet to begin, but the desire to stay in the present helps Hodgson get over any personal uncertainty.

The average age of a Premier League manager is now 52.5 and four of them – Mikel Arteta, Scott Parker, Graeme Potter and Paul Heckingbottom – were not even born when Hodgson took his place on the bench. The trend in football is towards younger, more forward-thinking managers, but Hodgson has proved himself an effective communicator and motivator of men 50 years younger than him.

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His coaching skills were particularly effective at the Palace. Winger Wilfried Zaha was considered a liability at Manchester United and tried to leave Palace at least once, but under Hodgson he played some of his best games. Andros Townsend has rebuilt his career at Croydon after a failed spell at Newcastle United. Hodgson has also been a wise mentor, following the development of Aaron Van Bissaki from a young boy to the £50m right-back who eventually came to Man United last summer.

I became aware of this [a few years ago] when I realised that players didn’t know who [former Newcastle, Arsenal and England striker] Malcolm McDonald was, Hodgson said. It’s one of those moments that feels like an epiphany because you suddenly realize, well, why would they know who Malcolm McDonald is? He stopped playing before most of them were born. And it’s silly of me to wonder if they don’t know who he is. It reminds you that these days you have to be careful with your analogies and who you appeal to.

I think managing people is an art in itself. And that doesn’t necessarily change anything. Generations change, generational culture changes. We can only succeed if we work together, we understand that without work there is no success. As far as the cultural aspects are concerned, it is a matter of recognising the signs and not making too many mistakes that could hurt people’s culture to the extent that they do not appreciate it.

Hodgson’s first experiences with different cultures took him first to Halmstad in Sweden in 1976, then to Odevold, Orebro and Malmo, where he later stayed, as well as Switzerland, where he managed the national team, Inter Milan, Udinese and the United Arab Emirates. When he joined Fulham in 2007, Hodgson had not played English football for 12 years, following a disappointing spell at Blackburn Rovers. However, he almost turned his back on management when then president Massimo Moratti offered him the job of technical director.

Why did he say no?

It must have been a realization of who I am. I realized that my strength actually lay in coaching, i.e. hands-on interaction with the players on the front lines. It was a realisation that Italy is a fantastic country to live in and that the interview is a great team to be associated with, and to confuse that with what you really want to do, which is always be involved in football.

Hodgson’s work with the England national team ended in disappointment, the elimination against Iceland in the round of 16 at Euro 2016, but he has done a remarkable job of bringing the squad back down to earth and injecting fresh ideas and analysis into the development of the squad. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

The London Football Awards, organised by London charity Willow, which raises money to fund special days for seriously ill young people aged between 16 and 40, are a tribute to his work in the capital. Hodgson’s three-year contract with Fulham has taken the club to unimaginable heights. [Editor’s note: James Ollie will be part of the voting panel for the London Football Awards 2021]. After making it to the final day of the 2007/08 season, the Cottagers qualified seventh for the Europa League the following year, where they put together an impressive run to lose the final in extra time to Atletico Madrid, whose team included Sergio Aguero, Jose Antonio Reyes, Diego Forlan and David de Gea.

Fulham beat defending champion Shakhtar Donetsk, Italian giants Juventus Turin and Bundesliga champion Wolfsburg in the second European season in the club’s history.

What the players did deserves to be called legendary because it deviated so far from what is expected of us, Hodgson said. Small budget, no expensive players, many players at the end of their careers – like Danny Murphy, Damian Duff, Simon Davies and Aaron Hughes. They have shown that they know how to play against teams that, on paper, are much more advanced than us in terms of what they are looking for.

Hodgson’s success at Fulham led him to Liverpool, but an unsuccessful stint at Anfield – winning just seven of 20 Premier League games amid greater fan enthusiasm from then Fulham owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett – did not stop him taking the England job in 2012, after just over a year at West Brom. With England, he was finally judged on the results of the tournament. He reached a decent quarter-final at Euro 2012 before being eliminated eight days later at the 2014 World Cup with two defeats against Italy and Uruguay, before suffering the humiliation of elimination at Euro 2016 in the round of 16 against underdogs Iceland.

But the work Gareth Southgate has done in recent years builds on Hodgson’s, particularly in terms of cultivating a culture of attracting young players, as well as setting up the infrastructure needed to ensure continuity in partnership with the national base at St George’s Park.

I certainly think the period between 2014 and 2016 was a turning point for England, he explained. It was a conscious effort that everyone felt was necessary, and even though we send some guys into fights that they’re not quite ready for because it’s still a little early in their career, it was decided that for the long-term good of the nation, it was the right thing to do. So I am convinced that we did the right thing in that respect.

In 2010, under Hodgson’s predecessor Fabio Capello, England assembled the oldest World Cup squad in their history, with an average age of almost 29. For Euro 2016, Hodgson selected the youngest England team at the European Championship, with an average age of less than 26.

There was never any loan diversion. It was a job, in fact, it was what I thought the job should be at the time. What we really started doing were two things that FA continued to do exceptionally well. I think we looked at our meetings carefully and we dressed the players in a more rugby style than the previous management style where the players come into the room, sit down and listen to what you have to say and then they come out and you don’t really have an idea of what they have done or not done.

I think we left at least a legacy in that regard.

Hodgson’s longest spell as manager came after he quit his England job and lasted 15 months before signing with Palace. They lost their first four games of the 2017-18 season under Frank de Boer before beating Hodgson in his first three games.

No team has ever avoided relegation from the Premier League after losing the first seven games, but the moment he convinced the players of his methods came in a 2-1 win over then champions Chelsea.

They had their best ever point total in the Premier League in the 2018/19 season and have since avoided being involved in the relegation battle. Hodgson blamed a win on Chelsea.

The players may have understood what was being asked of them, and what we are proposing may help us, he said.

Maybe it wasn’t so stupid and it was worth persevering. That fateful day when we played Chelsea was the catalyst and we could feel it: We thought we could win with that, and voila, it worked.

Believe in the next victory, again. For Hodgson, this is reflected in everything he does.

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