Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson admits he has doubts about whether some of the club’s unsettled players are “prepared to die for the cause” during the remainder of the Premier League season.
Palace, who surrendered a lead to lose 3-1 at Southampton on Tuesday evening, have a host of first-team squad members out of contract this summer.
Hodgson had plenty of personnel to pick from at St Mary’s, including being able to name a strong bench packed with experienced substitutes.
The 73-year-old expects his players to remain professional for the duration of their stays at Selhurst Park but acknowledges that uncertainty over their futures may be an issue.
“Yeah, there was some experience on there. But of course we can’t deny the fact that there are players on the bench who are unsettled,” said Hodgson.
“So in actual fact they might be experienced, but there is a question mark as to how much they’re going to be prepared to die for the cause because we can only expect them to behave as human beings.
“We want the best from them, we expect them to respect their contracts and we expect them always to go out and give what they can give every time we step on the field.
“There are players out there who might be uncertain about what the future holds, and there will be players on Sunday when we play Aston Villa who will be uncertain about their futures.
“But they’re doing what they’re paid to do. They’re contracted until such time as they get offered a new contract or move on, and all I can expect from them is to go out and be professional and do the job that we ask them to do.”
The 13th-placed Eagles remain on 41 points after Danny Ings’ double and a goal from Che Adams overturned Christian Benteke’s early opener on the south coast.
Palace have never been in serious relegation danger this term and have little to play for going into successive home games against Villa and Arsenal, followed by a final-day trip to deposed champions Liverpool.
It could be a transitional summer in south London, with Hodgson’s own deal due to expire and persistent rumours he is set to be replaced.
The former England manager believes remaining in the division will once again be the club’s foremost aim next season, regardless of who is in charge.
“No doubt it will be the same as it was this season: making certain that everything that’s done is done in a way that makes certain that the team is not going to find itself in the relegation zone,” he said.
“We haven’t been in the relegation zone for four years now. We were for a few months when I first came to the club, but we’ve not been in it since then.
“That’s got to be the primary objective. Then you’ve got to hope that you can build on that and then finish higher up the table. So that’s what I’m certain the club will be trying to do.”
Palace squandered a golden chance to restore their lead in Hampshire when Luka Milivojevic’s 40th-minute penalty was pushed away by Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
That crucial save helped Saints to only a fourth top-flight win of a difficult 2021 to date.
Forster – who has shared keeper duties with Alex McCarthy in recent weeks – is targeting a strong end to the season ahead of hosting Fulham and Leeds and a visit to West Ham.
“We’ve conceded a few penalties this season and most have gone in but it was nice to make the save,” the 33-year-old told his club’s website.
“Obviously it’s been tough lately, been tough really since Christmas, but hopefully the fans are buzzing with that.
“It’s a huge result and hopefully one we can build on in these last few games, get a few more wins and try and finish higher up the table.”
Meanwhile, Southampton have announced former England defender Ryan Bertrand will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.
The 31-year-old left-back, who is currently sidelined by a calf injury, has scored eight goals in 240 appearances for Saints having joined from Chelsea in 2014, initially on loan.
“Everyone associated with Southampton would like to thank Ryan for his contribution to the history of the club, and for all the memories he has helped create for our fans,” read a Southampton statement.
“He will forever be welcome at St Mary’s and Staplewood (training ground) and will always be a Saint.”