Exclusive: Yohan Cabaye on playing for Crystal Palace and why Roy Hodgson is criminally underrated

Former Crystal Palace midfielder Yohan Cabaye has been speaking to Londonworld about what makes the Eagles and Roy Hodgson special.
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Roy Hodgson has more than excelled on his return to Crystal Palace, and one ex-player who was unsurprised is Yohan Cabaye.

The former France international played 109 times for the Eagles under Alan Pardew and Roy Hodgson, in an epic spell which saw Palace reach the FA Cup semi-final.

Cabaye tells LondonWorld in an exclusive interview that seeing Roy back excelling will not surprise anyone who knows him because even at an early age, he took the bold step of going abroad to coach, a price most English managers are not prepared to pay even in 2023.

He said: “No, really Roy is class, a real gentleman. He’s clever also, I don't know, he can speak how many different languages and he’s well-travelled.

“He’s an English coach who went to Europe to manage. So you have to have that in mind, of course, he’s more experienced now, I don’t want to say older, but he knows about football.”

“There has been an inevitable comparison between former manager Patrick Vieira’s last days at Palace and Roy’s storming start that saw him win against Leicester with the last kick of the game and batter Leeds United away before comfortably putting away Southampton. Players like Jordan Ayew and Michael Olise who were favourite under the former Arsenal midfielder have blossomed and out-of-favour midfielder Eberechi Eze is back in England contention after looking reborn under Hodgson.

“I don’t want, to make a comparison between Patrick and him by the way, there are two different managers and I never played under Patrick.

James McArthur (C) of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Yohan Cabaye (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)James McArthur (C) of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Yohan Cabaye (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
James McArthur (C) of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Yohan Cabaye (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

“I know him as a player and also as a person. But I don’t know him as a coach, so I don’t want to compare them. And, yeah, I just want to say, I’m sure Patrick is a very good manager too.

“And I’m sure Roy also has the experience and the knowledge also. And yeah, sometimes you don’t know how it works, but it works for someone and doesn't work for another one, that does not mean that the other one who doesn’t work for is a bad manager."

Hodgson once went out of his way to take Cabaye out on a tea date during the midfielder’s time in south London and the topic for discussion was everything but football. He does things to create an environment so players can excel.

The 75-year-old will take charge of Crystal Palace for the last time this season when they face Nottingham Forest at Selhurst Park.

Five wins, two draws, and one defeat mean the Eagles will comfortably finish midtable, when he took over, they had gone 13 games without a win in 2023 and shivers were filtering through the fan base that the Eagles were sleepwalking into a relegation battle. They could finish with their best joint finish in eight years if they can beat Nottingham Forest this weekend.

No manager has had such a transformative effect on a team in the short space of time as Hodgson, Ray Lewington, and Paddy McCarthy have this season, and Cabaye speculated it may be his Croydon roots that helped Roy turn it around in south London.

“Roy I know is a man from Croydon," Cabaye told LondonWorld. "Maybe this is something you know, atmosphere special atmosphere, and yeah, sometimes you have things that you can’t explain here.”

Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his team's first goal from the penalty (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his team's first goal from the penalty (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)
Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace celebrates scoring his team's first goal from the penalty (Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images)

Cabaye is probably the only player in history to move from PSG to Crystal Palace. It was Alan Pardew, his former coach at Newcastle that left a message on his phone asking if he’d want to see how life was like in the south of London after winning the French domestic treble in Paris.

Palace had to break the bank for him though, paying the French side £10 million, smashing the £7 million fee they had paid for Scottish midfielder James McArthur from Wigan.

He arrived in the summer of 2015 having excelled at Lille, Newcastle, and PSG but says absolutely nothing in the Premier League beats playing at Selhurst Park. Adding that it's the only stadium where fans sing from the first minute to the last minute.

He said: “When you talk about the fan base, and the atmosphere in Selhurst it's just crazy. You know, the fans are fantastic. And they always, always, always support us. And yeah, they’re always singing.

“In England and in the Premier League that is rare to find. Sometimes you can have a very good atmosphere somewhere but to sing all game long, you know, from the first to the 90th-minute man. You can’t, you can’t you can’t get that anywhere except at Selhurst."

By the time Cabaye was leaving Palace in 2018, he’d had enough memories to last him a lifetime, he’d made 109 appearances and bagged 10 goals from the heart of midfield in the heart of south London.

He’d learned what it meant to play for a community-driven club and describes the whole three-year experience as magical, he’d also play in the final of the FA Cup - a moment he highlights as one of the best in his career.

“My time at Palace was magic and unbelievable. Also, the fans were fantastic with me all the people in the club from the chairman to the last," he told LondonWorld.

“I mean, from the youngest person you know all the way to the top. I had a great time there and I was really really happy. But yeah, if I want to say one moment, it’s just too broad, the fans at Wembley.

“The way they with the team, not me and not me because I wasn’t alone with the team and, just to go and play at Wembley for the final with fans, it was something that we can be you know proud of. I would say, unfortunately, we didn’t win. But it was a magic moment too.”

As the assistant director of PSG’s academy now, Cabaye lives in Paris but admits he still keeps an eye out for what is happening in south London and would love to visit soon when the time is right.