Crystal Palace have finally filled the gap Steve Higham left in their academy backroom team when he joined Manchester United last summer, appointing Steve Hetzke as head of academy operations and performance director.
Whilst plenty of fans will be quick to wonder why it’s taken the club so long to fill a role that looks from the outside to be a pivotal one, you could argue that Palace’s youth system hasn’t struggled in the intervening period.
Indeed, the Eagles’ Under-15 side won the Premier League Super Floodlit Cup for the first time recently, triumphing over Chelsea, Arsenal and Wigan (in the final) to lift the trophy at Walsall’s Banks’s Stadium. It was a victory which provided tangible proof that Palace’s youngsters could be set for a truly bright future en-masse after one or two a season over the last few years.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is of course our latest young superstar but in Sam Woods, Luke Dreher and Nya Kirby, Roy Hodgson has a trio that could well make a mark on the first-team given time and encouragement, holding the fort until the group referenced above truly come of age. Despite football in general being a notoriously short-term industry, the club’s acquisition of the site across the road from the main training ground for use by the academy shows a level of commitment and planning towards lasting growth and possible Category 1 status, with Hetzke seen as key to that moving forward.
Whilst the summer news cycles are likely to be dominated by stories linking former academy stars Zaha and Wan-Bissaka with moves away, Palace fans can at least take some comfort from the fact that measures are being put in place to ensure a steady flow of top talent is sent towards the first-team for years to come.
The future really does look bright.