Just a couple of weeks ago Crystal Palace fans could not have imagined that they would be at Elland Road, shouting ‘Olé’ after every pass by their team.
For too long this season they were just grateful to celebrate one goal in a game, but on Sunday they were spoiled by five in a remarkable second-half demolition of Leeds United as their resurgence under Roy Hodgson continued.
It is almost the stuff of fairytales. The 75-year-old – a boyhood Palace fan – came out of retirement to help the side he previously managed between 2017 and 2021, tasked with the job of keeping them in the Premier League.
Barely two weeks in and that task already looks almost complete.
Back-to-back wins in Hodgson’s two games in charge so far have moved Palace up to 12th on 33 points, six above the relegation zone.
But Hodgson has been in the game long enough to not get carried away by such an emphatic display.
“This was a good day,” he said. “They won’t be good days forever.
“If I was a younger, less cynical person I might be enjoying it more than I am because I have an eye that we aren’t clear of the relegation zone.
“You can’t just relax and enjoy this until you are out of the mire.”
Unlocking Palace’s attacking talent
Why has Hodgson’s impact been as emphatic as it has been sudden?
The former England manager appears to have found a way for Palace’s incredible attacking talent of Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze to express themselves in a manner they were not quite able to do under former boss Patrick Vieira.
In the ex-France international’s last nine games, Palace had a total of 16 shots on target but they have equalled that tally in just two games under Hodgson, scoring with seven of those.
Even more impressive is that Palace scored five against Leeds with their talismanic forward Zaha out through injury. His replacement, the experienced Jordan Ayew, made the most of his opportunity with two goals.
“Crystal Palace came out with great confidence, great flair, some top quality counter-attacking,” said former Sheffield United and Leeds midfielder and BBC Radio 5 live pundit Michael Brown.
“They had a little bit of everything.”
It was Olise who truly stood out at Elland Road.
He was the driving force in that stunning second half in which he became the youngest player in Premier League history to provide three assists in a single game.
“In the second half he was spot on with everything,” continued Hodgson.
“I think he is an enormous talent. He has a great possibility in terms of having a wonderful career and future and we can only hope at Crystal Palace we can give him the platform.”
Can Leeds recover from capitulation?
For so long, however, it looked like it would be Leeds who would be enjoying the perfect day.
Fresh from a 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest, they attacked with confidence and pace in a first half in which they really should have been two or three goals up.
But a mixture of brilliant goalkeeping by Sam Johnstone and wasteful finishing – an all too familiar issue for Leeds this season – meant they were always in danger of undoing the good work that led to Patrick Bamford scoring his 50th goal for the club.
Javi Gracia has had a good start to his managerial career at Leeds, winning three and drawing one of his eight games so far.
The excellent performance in the first half will give the former Watford boss belief that his players have the ability to recover from the second-half disappointment and pull themselves away from trouble.
“I know my players very well,” he said. “I don’t need to lose one game or win one game to learn more about my players.
“I believe in them and trust them and in this situation we are going to do it together.”