Crystal Palace academy man Andre Coker is facing a “make or break” few months on loan at Maidstone, with his current contract at Selhurst Park set to expire when the 2017-18 season comes to a close.
Having always kept a close eye on Andre’s development, I was a little taken aback to see him heading out on loan at first but once I discovered the reasons for the move, I couldn’t help but admire the attacker’s desire to prove himself to those who matter most.
Clearly, with time running short, Coker is desperate to make a mark and sees a short-term move to a club like Maidstone as the perfect opportunity to earn a new deal in SE25 whilst others stay within the bubble of U23 football.
It’s not a path that would suit everyone but after being selected to take part in a first-team pre-season friendly against the same opposition by Frank de Boer over the summer, Andre clearly got a taste for it and was keen to experience competitive football on a more regular basis. There is no way around it, the feel of an academy game is totally different to that of non-league football and I feel as though Coker should be applauded for seeking out a change of scene in a bid to alter his long-term prospects as a professional.
I may be a tad biased but I’d love to see him offered professional terms with us over the summer. Quite how Hodgson and the rest of his coaching staff feel about our most mature crop of academy lads is unknown at this stage but you need only ask a handful of Palace fans to learn that we as a club absolutely love to see academy boys making their way through into the first-team as and when they can.
I dare say the vast majority of you will have never seen Andre kick a ball before but I will readily admit to having always been impressed with his game. Yes, he’s still a tad raw and remains something of an unknown quantity at the professional level but with boys of his age and potential, it’s impossible to know how they’ll truly fare at the highest level until you throw them in and find out.
There are plenty of supporters who feel that the financial pressure of Premier League survival is killing any opportunity for youngsters to flourish and they’re probably right but from time to time, I’d love to see us put our faith in one or two new faces from the academy set-up, particularly when they’ve shown the sort of drive to succeed that Andre has by moving away temporarily.
We’ll keep you updated on his progress.