Ian Wright scored over 100 goals for Crystal Palace before moving to Arsenal and now, he’s imploring academy graduate Wilfried Zaha to resist the advances of Tottenham and stay put at Selhurst Park for the good of his career.
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) March 19, 2018
Whilst the former striker has something of a turbulent relationship with the Eagles faithful, given the manner in which he left the club to join Arsenal in the early 1990s, I can’t help but feel as though his comments regarding Zaha’s long-term future are spot on.
Having been brought into the Palace first-team as a teenager, Wilf has always been given a degree of freedom to express himself which he wouldn’t be afforded elsewhere. Yes, he’s now a far better player than the one who left for the bright lights of Manchester United back in 2013 but even so, I (along with Ian Wright) have often wondered if he’d ever shine quite so brightly if he was forced to conform to another club’s ethos.
Following on from that dreadful spell in the North West, which incorporated an unsuccessful stint on loan at Cardiff, Zaha only began to truly flourish a month or two after his return to SE25, surrounded by familiar people and part of a tactical set-up which was geared towards bringing the best out of his game from week to week.
Far be it for me to write off the 25-year-old’s chances of making a success of things elsewhere now that he has grown as both a player and a person but there can be no debate over the fact that Crystal Palace offers him the perfect stage upon which to play a starring role. He is, quite rightly, the biggest fish in our particular pond and seems to relish that tag. Whilst he is far from selfish in possession, he’s well aware that his teammates look for him in the final third and takes that responsibility in his stride. Would he feel the same buzz if he was just another squad player with a club like Spurs? I for one am not at all sure he’d enjoy it and as a player who thrives in knowing that supporters have got his back, that could present a real problem in the long-term.
You have every right to call me biased over this issue (because I am) but I really do feel as though Crystal Palace FC and Wilfried Zaha are a match made in heaven. It would be a real shame to break that partnership up for a second time.