The current crop of academy prospects at Palace have set tongues wagging this term and now it’s being reported that one of the most highly-rated youngsters on our books, Josh Ajayi has been offered a new contract.
In truth, the form of the Palace under 18s (now being managed by former Eagles centre-back Paddy McCarthy) has been a real talking point amongst the club’s supporters this season and in Ajayi, it seems we have a really talented young lad on our hands.
Having primarily been used as a striker in the past, he’s now being played on the flank both as an out-and-out wide midfielder and a wing-back depending on the tactical set-up we’ve come up against from week to week. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure which lads will and won’t make it in the professional game at this stage of their development but in the here and now, it’s hugely encouraging to see players like Ajayi making such waves at under-18 level.
Whilst the likes of Wayne Routledge, Ben Watson and Tom Soares all came through at the same time back in the early noughties, it’s unusual to get a selection of youngsters who are all ready to make the step up to the first-team simultaneously. The hope for this current group is that they continue to grow and improve as a squad before seriously pushing for a place in the match-day squad over the next two to three years. Obviously, they’ll have be lucky with injuries and form in the intervening period but as things stand, they appear to have a better chance of making it collectively than many groups who have come before them.
Josh Ajayi may not have been a name that you were too familiar with prior to this morning but keep an eye on him in the next couple of years, he may just end up following in a certain Wilfried Zaha’s footsteps if he plays his cards right.