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Roy Hodgson relying on Martin Kelly to step up as Joel Ward injury ramps up pressure on January window

Roy Hodgson is counting on Martin Kelly to do an Aaron Wan-Bissaka and grab the opportunity grated by Joel Ward’s injury with both hands.

Ward, Palace’s only natural right-back, is out until the new year having suffered a serious knee injury during the defeat to Liverpool last weekend, leaving Hodgson desperately short at full-back.

Kelly is first and foremost a centre-back but is capable of playing at right-back and was taken to Euro 2012 by Hodgson as cover for that position.

He is now hoping the 29-year-old can step up and make a case to keep Ward out of the side once he returns to fitness, just as Aaron Wan-Bissaka did when making his breakthrough.

“The thing is Aaron Wan-Bissaka got into the team through an injury to Joel Ward,” said Hodgson. “Joel Ward was the right-back, got injured and in came Wan-Bissaka and unfortunately Joel couldn’t get his place back. 

“I’m now hoping Kelly will do very well and it will be a tough fight between Kelly and Ward, and possible even another player if we were to sign one, to decide who will play in that right-back position.”

Signing a right-back remains a priority for the Eagles going into the January window. Following the £50million sale of Wan-Bissaka in June, Palace looked at bringing in Chelsea’s Reece James, then fresh from a year on loan with Wigan in the Championship, or Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham.

James is no longer an option given his standing in Frank Lampard’s squad, though Walker-Peters could be a target the club return to come the new year. 

Hodgson is not afraid to hide his frustration at the lack of significant transfer activity during his time at Selhurst Park. While recognising that the club cannot operate without fiscal responsibility, that the former England boss has largely had to work with free signings being his only new additions remains a concern. There is a feeling among those at the club that their recruitment must change soon.

There have been consistent failures to land key targets in recent windows, James and Walker-Peters being an example as well as Russian striker Fedor Chalov, who may now have drifted out of Palace’s reach.

Despite that disappointment, Hodgson says there will be no change of approach to landing signings in January.

“I think our scouting and recruitment policies are as good as anyone else’s,” he said. “They certainly don’t differ from any club I have been at. I don’t think there is anything we need to do to make things better, how we assess our squad or identifying how we make our squad better or more complete. 

It’s a case of making sure the profiles of the players you know are known to the people who do the scouting so the names brought to you are the players you want. And then the last thing is, is the money there to do what’s required. When it’s free transfers or players being released, it’s quite easy. And that’s why quite a lot of players who have come into the club since I’ve been here have been free transfers and loans.”

Hodgson is unclear, publicly at least, as to how much he will have to spend in January, with that decision laying largely in the hands of wantaway American shareholders Joshua Harris and David Blitzer.

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