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England newbie Wilfried Zaha may not have to leave Crystal Palace to reach Premier League, says Johnny Phillips

Features - Johnny Phillips Posted 12th November 2012 view comments

Wilfried Zaha has been called up into the England squad and on Saturday's evidence it is fully merited.

London Road was a great place to be for a neutral and for Crystal Palace fans I can only imagine how much fun it was.

Peterborough's ground has the last remaining terrace in the top two divisions and the Palace fans packed it out and took the opportunity to create the kind of atmosphere that only terracing can create; the singing was loud and the support was second to none.

Zaha: called into the England squad for Wednesday's friendly with Sweden

Zaha: called into the England squad for Wednesday's friendly with Sweden

It helps when you're watching a winning team and new Eagles boss Ian Holloway knows he is a lucky man, he said as much in his post-match interview. His team are playing great football at the moment and, in Zaha, they have the outstanding player in the division.

When I asked his manager if he thought the home side struggled to cope with him he just smiled. It was a daft question, the Peterborough players couldn't get near him.

When someone is so gifted they should be encouraged, but I hope Palace can hold on to Zaha this season.n

Johnny Phillips
Quotes of the week

Zaha was celebrating his 20th birthday, although the afternoon didn't get off to the sort of start he was looking for when Peterborough took an early lead. Zaha's pace, skill and decision-making soon stood out, though.

Inventiveness

He was unlucky not to score himself in the first half, carving out his own opportunities with a couple of mazy dribbles, but in the second half he moved up another gear.

Posh chief Darren Ferguson watched on as his side were eventually worn down by Palace's constant attacking and Zaha's inventiveness. "I'd pay to watch him. He's the best player outside the Premier League," Ferguson acknowledged.

Zaha's close control is phenomenal and he continued to take on his markers and beat them, sometimes in the tightest of spaces, but his awareness has improved considerably since I last saw him a couple of seasons ago.

And nowhere was it illustrated more in the late winning goal.

A Peterborough corner was cleared to the edge of the Palace area where Zaha picked up possession and went on a 60-yard dash, riding a sliding tackle before beautifully weighting a simple pass to Kagisho Dikgacoi who finished coolly.

It was a relatively straight forward pass from Zaha but it was perfectly judged.

Treasure

It's always hard for a manager to single out players, but Holloway was gushing in his praise. "What a lovely kid. He's a fantastic footballer, brilliant skill. I just want to get him moving and get the ball a little bit more, because he's almost unplayable."

"I was shouting and bawling at the referee. I don't think they deliberately tried to hurt him but I've never seen so many fouls on one player in my entire life. Maybe Pele at the World Cup when they carried him off on a stretcher."

Comparisons with Pele won't do anything to dampen the hype but Holloway is right to celebrate the player. When someone is so gifted they should be encouraged, but I hope Palace can hold on to him this season.

There is talk of offers from Premier League clubs when the transfer window opens. I don't think the most one-eyed Eagles fan would deny him that opportunity one day but there is no need to go now when he is playing every week, at a club who treasure him.

When teams get on a role they are great to be involved in. Crystal Palace is that sort of club right now. Holloway knows it, the fans certainly know it and I hope Zaha does, too.

He might not have to move to get Premier League football.

Comments (5)

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R Slicker (Crystal Palace fan) says...

1st class write up Johnny. I've seen them all down the Palace over the last 40 years and Wilf is probably the best of the lot. He will go the whole way.

Posted 13:28 13th November 2012

Ben Goodwin (Crystal Palace fan) says...

A fantastic article, Zaha is not only playing week in week out, but he is improving week in week out. The last thing that he needs, is to go and sit on the bench for one of the big 4 right now! No Palace fan will begrudge him the move he deserves when the time is right, but that is at the end of the season, if, and only if we are still in the Championship. In the mean time it is time to repay the club that have given him his opportunities since he was 12!

Posted 15:25 12th November 2012

Geoff Pollock (Crystal Palace fan) says...

More hype for Wilf and now Drogba wants him for the Ivory Coast too an who can blame him. Philips is right to say Eagles' fans do not want to deny him his PL chance but there is time for that to happen and it is certainly not before June 2013. Moses was sold as CPFC needed the cash but he could have stayed one more season and he would still be putting them away for Chelsea now. Bostock went years too soon and where is he now?

Posted 12:53 12th November 2012

Adam Mills says...

Proof that if you stay with a Championship side you will get the recognition. If he sticks around for another season after this then great, if not we'll take £20million - no less. He's far better than Theo, The Ox and Sterling. If/when he goes he should only join a top 4 team, Barca or Madrid cos the Eagles are soaring right now. John Bostock - you silly, silly boy...

Posted 12:46 12th November 2012

Ian Casselton says...

Great article Johnny. As a Palace fan it was indeed fantastic to be at the game on Saturday, a great advert for safe standing too! These types/class of player have rarely played in my beloved red n blue thru the forty years of watching them, a real privilege to witness right now. A journo wrote last week that he thinks he is better than Ronaldo when he first arrived in England - high praise indeed, Wilfs attitude, confidence and skill are certainly similar. Fingers crossed that he can fulfil at least some of his dreams at Palace.

Posted 11:48 12th November 2012

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