As Crystal Palace fans, we’ve been trying to open referees’ eyes to the rough treatment Wilfried Zaha gets from opposition players for years but in recent weeks, we’ve finally seen neutral pundits and “experts” joining our calls.
Having been the victim of a horror-tackle from Watford’s Etienne Capoue back in August, Graeme Souness jumped to the 25-year-old’s defence and now, following last weekend’s trip to Huddersfield, former referee Keith Hackett has pleaded with the Premier League’s current crop of officials to keep a close eye on the treatment Wilf gets, in a bid to prevent a season or career-ending injury.
The clash with the Terriers saw Zaha bag a genuine wonder-goal to win the game for Roy Hodgson’s men but a tackle on him from Mathias Jorgensen could easily have ended in broken bones, prompting Hackett to suggest that the Huddersfield man should have seen red.
As Palace fans, we are well aware of Zaha’s importance to our general chances of success. His ability marks him out as the best player currently operating outside the top six and as such, it makes sense that opposition players would target him. The tackle on him from Jorgensen (just like the one from Capoue three weeks ago) showed no attempt to win the ball, leading to the obvious conclusion that the only intention was to hurt the Palace man, which in itself is a red card offence.
There have been plenty of foolish comments made about Wilf over the years, the latest of which have seen him being told to take the rough tackles as a compliment by the Match of the Day panel but no professional should be forced to step across the white line and fear for their fitness week after week.
Sceptics will say Zaha doesn’t deserve “special treatment” but when so many opposition game plans are drawing up exactly that before the game kicks off, it’s only right that the referees in charge keeper a closer eye than normal on the tackles which are made on the Palace talisman.
Well said Keith Hackett.