With the World Cup now fewer than 10 days away, a fair number of neutral fans have been asking why more wasn’t done to ensure that Wilfried Zaha’s international status as an England player, leaving the man himself with no option but to reiterate the fact that the Three Lions completely ignored him for four years.
Now 25, the Palace academy graduate has taken the plunge and is happy to represent the Ivory Coast but he is quite rightly quick to point out that he gave the England set-up more than enough time to involve him in their plans before finally giving in and saying “yes” to the country of his birth.
Having represented England at U-21 level, Wilfried had high hopes for his future with the full side but lies springing from his turbulent spell on the books of Manchester United seemed to stop any hopes he had of stepping up into the first-team dead in their tracks. For years he waited, performing superbly at Palace from week to week without so much as a phone-call from anyone within the England set-up before finally biting the bullet and giving in to the Ivory Coast’s frequent advances.
Looking back now, it’s a decision Zaha doesn’t regret in the slightest, with the constant struggle for international recognition having been replaced by a sense of comfort and appreciation in his abilities but for those with a vested interest in England’s success, it no doubt feels like a case of not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone. You’d have to be a fool not to recognise the difference Wilfried could make to the current England squad given his pace, skill and ability to frighten defenders but for a multitude of increasingly baffling reasons, he was never shown even the slightest bit of interest when the time was right.
It comes to something when a player who was told he “lacked the passion” to play for England has to remind everyone that he waited a full four years for a sign of England’s intent before deciding to switch allegiances but unfortunately, that’s the bubble we now live inside when it comes to the coverage of the national team.