Crystal Palace’s Under 23 side secured a late 2-0 victory over south London rivals Millwall on Monday afternoon at the club’s Beckenham training ground, thanks to goals from Kian Flanagan and Joseph Hungbo.
With plenty of first-teamers still in need of game-time, academy boss Gary Issott handed starts to Sullay Kaikai, Jonny Williams and Scott Dann, who continues to recover from the ligament injury he picked up against Manchester City on New Year’s Eve of 2017.
Whilst the game itself was far from a classic, the team and Dann in particular will have been extremely pleased to secure a clean sheet, with their sense of joy added to significantly by the two late goals which secured the win. It may not match up to the significance of a first-team win but for the youngsters we’ve got coming through, any triumph over a local rival will be celebrated.
Both Flanagan and Hungbo took their goals extremely well, as you’ll see on the video attached in the link above, leaving us all to wonder who the next name to break through into Roy Hodgson’s first-team will be, following the meteoric rise to fame of a certain Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Of course, blooding young players in the Premier League is seldom straightforward (Aaron only got his chance as the direct result of a major injury crisis) but year after year, we see two or three teenagers performing well in the U23s with nothing more than an occasional place on the bench to show for their efforts.
Conventional wisdom points towards Nya Kirby being the next name to get a proper chance at first-team level but in order for him to be given a chance, a fair few players will have to be unavailable ahead of him. I don’t blame Hodgson or his coaching staff, Premier League points are absolutely precious but in an environment where we have to work so hard to stay afloat year after year, it would be great to see at least one or two academy stars blooded each season; just to maintain a sense of ambition amongst the teenagers working hard away from the spotlight of the TV cameras.