When he was summoned from the substitutes’ bench to replace Jordan Ayew after 65 minutes of Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Everton, Wilfried Zaha could have been forgiven for feeling a little nervous as to how the supporters would react to him; thankfully, the reception he got will have left him relieved and arguably invigorated for the season to come.
Just a little more than 72 hours before kick off, Zaha had handed in an official transfer request to the Palace owners, seemingly angry at being denied a move to Everton but with next to no time in which to adequately replace the academy graduate, Steve Parish was left with no choice but to ignore the pleas of Palace’s star man. Stories flew around suggesting that Zaha had refused to train (all of which were swiftly put to bed by Roy Hodgson on Friday) but even with the gaffer’s calming words, there was a general sense of unease at how the wide man’s first appearance back at Selhurst Park was going to play out.
Wilf was probably extremely worried about the reaction he’d get when he came on today.
The response he got will have meant a great deal. pic.twitter.com/F7WtHuiOBs
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) August 10, 2019
When the time did eventually come for the Ivory Coast international to enter the action, (he had been left on the bench due to the lack of training he’d done after returning to pre-season late from the African Cup of Nations) he found himself roundly cheered as Palace pushed for a possible winner against a Toffees side who had started to fade following a promising opening half.
Through no fault of Zaha’s, his introduction appeared to jar Palace’s rhythm a tad in the closing stages, with the departing Jordan Ayew’s tireless effort at the head of the side sorely missed against a fatigued Everton back line. To his credit, Wilfried looked to get on the ball whenever possible but did seem rusty; worrying Everton defenders without being able to use that final bit of explosiveness to see the ball into the back of Jordan Pickford’s net.
Appreciate the support today 🙏🏿 2019/20 ▶️ pic.twitter.com/Xl4syvjm5Y
— Wilfried Zaha (@wilfriedzaha) August 10, 2019
Zaha’s posts to both Instagram and Twitter following the final whistle hinted a man who was relieved to have got his potentially awkward reunion with the Palace faithful out of the way without a hitch. We as a fan-base are far from happy about how this all played out over the summer but are also well aware that for at least four more months, holding a collective grudge against the club’s best player will achieve nothing.
a marriage of convenience it may be but for the time being it’s essential for all parties that the fans and Zaha remain on the same page.