Having recently heard at length from Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish about the plans to elevate the club’s academy to Category One status, this piece from The Evening Standard is sure to put a smile on the face of every Eagles fan.
Buoyed by the success of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, not to mention the recent injection of £50 million into the club’s coffers following his sale to Manchester United, plans behind the scenes have seen the academy staff beefed up significantly, with plans in place to ensure that AWB is the first of many young players to make the step up to the first-team in the next five years.
It’s easy to forget, given the meteoric nature of Wan-Bissaka’s rise to stardom, that his chance in the first-team only arose as a direct consequence of a defensive injury crisis. Similarly, Wilfried Zaha’s chance in the Palace side came when George Burley was short of numbers and asked Gary Issott to hand over his best player. Despite the pair’s subsequent success, the challenge moving forward is to embed a mindset which sees players of their ilk regularly tested at first-team level. It’s something which is far easier said than done but with Issott happy to admit that the whole club has been “energised” by Wan-Bissaka’s path to Old Trafford, we may well see a mentality shift over the next 12-24 months.
Dean Wilkins’ arrival as part of the academy backroom team is discussed in-depth in the piece attached above and hints at a real commitment from the chairman down to utilise the academy relentlessly in the pursuit of long-term stability in England’s top tier. It has always been Palace’s unique selling point given the talent we have on our doorstep; if we can begin to get the very best out of it year after year, the sky really is the limit.