Garth Crooks has spent much of the 2017/18 season digging out Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha for “not staying on his feet” but now, just one week on from the BBC pundit presenting the 25-year-old with a “Best of Africa” team award at a glitzy event in London, he’s doing his level best to sell him to Spurs.
Over the course of the last nine months, Zaha has been forced to endure all sorts of unfair criticism from pundits across the game, with Crooks himself happily jumping aboard the bandwagon of idiots who wrongly call the Palace academy graduate a diver. Now, having spoken to the Eagles star in person, Garth appears to have become star-struck, dedicating a huge chunk of his latest “Team of the Week” column to the idea of him leaving Palace behind for Tottenham.
Transfer stories linking Zaha with moves away from Selhurst Park have become a constant part of the footballing landscape for Palace fans in recent years but by doing such a blatant 180 in a matter of days, I can’t deny the fact that Crooks has got under my skin.
You need only go back to April 28th to find footage of the BBC pundit aiming a thinly-veiled dig at Wilf whilst watching the scores coming in. Shortly after the final whistle had sounded to end Palace’s 5-0 hammering of Leicester City, Garth interrupted Danny Mills (who had been talking up Zaha’s importance to the Palace team) to add “when he stays on his feet”. It was a poor joke which brought a forced laugh from host Dan Walker, but in truth it was just the latest in a long line of similar comments made by Crooks about Zaha’s game.
Fast-forward two weeks and the former Spurs man is comparing Wilfried to Alfie Conn and Arsenal’s Charlie George; it’s al a bit pathetic. Indeed, when saying “He’s not going to win anything at Palace. He might at Spurs and he would at Arsenal.” Crooks highlights his ignorance as to what makes the Ivory Coast international tick.
It’s easy for pundits and casual observers to write off the personal turmoil Zaha endured when being battered by the press for not fitting in at Old Trafford but five years on, Wilf himself wears those scars like a badge of honour. Throughout those tough times, Crystal Palace have stood by him; a fact that he remembers better than anyone else. Of course he’d like to win things but he’s not prepared to sour his relationship with the club that adore him by forcing a move away, even if men like Crooks suddenly proclaim that “it’s time” for him to leave.
There is an insane amount of noise surrounding Wilfried Zaha but it’s something he has grown used to over the years. I, and I dare say thousands of other Palace fans trust him to make the right decision without any input from men like Crooks.