Following on from Wilfried Zaha’s eye-catching winner in the Ivory Coast’s victory over Russia last week, England boss Gareth Southgate has spoken at length about his failed attempt to persuade the Palace winger to stay faithful to the Three Lions.
Despite making his full international bow in an England shirt against Sweden in 2012 under the guidance of Roy Hodgson, Wilf retained the right to opt for a competitive career with the Ivory Coast after the event; an opportunity he finally decided to take advantage of towards the back end of 2016 after a period of prolonged deliberation with his direct family and loved ones. On a personal level, it’s a choice which appears to have done the wide man the world of good, bringing about the best run of form he’s possibly ever enjoyed as a professional but as you can always expect when it comes to the FA, there have been one or two low blows thrown our way as a direct consequence of his success.
Having been rightly pressed for a comment on the reasons for Zaha’s eventual switch to the Ivory Coast instead of the country he passionately represented at U21 level, Southgate has opted for a petty response, rather than simply wishing him well.
Aiming digs at both Zaha and Palace chairman Steve Parish, the England gaffer has seemingly seen no personal mileage in remaining cordial and has instead decided to place the blame elsewhere, albeit in a manner which cannot be easily described as combative, just catty.
It was almost certainly the lack of enthusiasm on show from Southgate and indeed Roy Hodgson towards Zaha which made his decision so simple when push came to shove. On one side of the fence were a country who were desperate to build a team around him, on the other was a nation who routinely looked down their nose at him for no apparent reason. After four years of hanging on, I don’t personally see how any logical football fan can lambast the lad for switching his alleigenaces to the country of his birth.
The above quotes from Southgate smack of nothing more than sour grapes, having realised far too late that he and other managers before him had dropped the ball by not embracing Zaha and all that he brings to a side.
In truth, you only need to look at the justifiable tantrum Ross Barkley has thrown over his continued exclusion from the England side to see that Wilf is better off out of that set-up for the rest of his days.
Forgive me for rattling on a bit but this subject is one I feel incredibly strongly about. The backside-covering, insular approach of this country’s football association is squarely to blame for Wilfried Zaha’s international switch and the above quotes from Gareth Southgate are nothing more than a pathetic attempt to shift the gaze away from FA headquarteres and onto our club’s front door.
I’m not suprised, I’m just keen to ensure that the people in charge of our national game don’t get away with spinning the story in a manner which suits them, regardless of the facts at hand.
They had their chance with Wilf and they blew it in very deliberate fashion, now they should be forced to live with the consequences, without resorting to snide digs in the press.