Yesterday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Tottenham sent Palace fans home in despondent mood but there was one massive plus point for everyone of a red and blue persuasion in the shape of debutant right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
With Mamadou Sakho pulling out of our game against Spurs having not felt ready and Joel Ward missing once again through injury, Roy Hodgson was forced to shift regular right-back Timothy Fosu-Mensah into the heart of the back four alongside James Tomkins, meaning that Wan-Bissaka was given the nod in his place against a Spurs side fighting for their lives to secure a place in the top four by May.
Whilst I will admit to having felt a twinge of nerves on Aaron’s behalf before the game kicked off, the man himself was adamant that he wasn’t feeling too worried about the challenges ahead of him when he discovered he was part of the starting XI.
Having been with the club since the age of 11, the chance to take part in a Premier League clash is something the 20-year-old will have always dreamed of but in truth, he never really looked out of place over the course of 90 minutes. Winning 66% of his duels whilst making seven tackles, four clearances and four interceptions, I think even the harshest of critics would admit that he applied himself well on a day when many other debutants could have wilted under the pressure.
It’s been a long while since an academy player was given a debut start in the Premier League at Palace but in reality, Aaron has proven that we could do far worse than to place a little more faith in the players who are currently turning out from week to week with the U23s. Yes, they may lack a little in terms of experience but you need only look at the backing Aaron was given by the fans throughout yesterday’s game to see that our fan-base love the sight of academy prospects being offered the chance to prove themselves.
There is a sense of togetherness that comes out whenever an academy lad is thrown into the first-team which simply cannot be matched by any new signing. Whilst I’m not advocating a team full of kids turning out against Manchester United on Monday night, I do feel as though Aaron’s display against Spurs may pave the way for one or two more youngsters to be given a shot with the first-team in the not too distant future.