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Rising stars: Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace and England Under-21s star Wilfried Zaha is quickly making a name for himself.

Since making his debut in 2010 under the guidance of then-manager Paul Hart, Zaha has taken the Championship by storm and is already becoming renowned for his quick feet, wonderful trickery and electrifying pace.

The 19-year-old has been one of Palace’s most prolific players this season, scoring seven times in a side that has found goals hard to come by this season.

The England Under-21 international is the latest talent to emerge from the South London club’s impressive youth system and has managed to nail down a starting place since ex-Palace boss George Burley gave him his full debut in a 3-2 home win against Leicester City, in which Zaha opened the scoring, with an impressive volley in the early stages, and set up Alan Lee to score, what turned out to be, the winner.

Since then, the forward has put together a string of impressive performances that have delighted the Selhurst Park faithful, the most notable of which coming against Premier League champions Manchester United at Old Trafford in which Zaha’s silky skills, directness and confidence shone through as he terrorised the United defence.

Zaha also managed to set up Darren Ambrose to score one of the goals of the season, which helped Palace progress to the Carling Cup Semi-Finals.

Despite his obvious talent, the Ivorian born, Zaha has come under scrutiny from some critics for his disciplinary record, having already received three red cards in his career, although one of which was rescinded. 


Since his most recent dismissal at Turf Moor, Eagles boss Dougie Freedman has publically called for the youngster to be given more protection from referees. Freedman highlighted the problem of persistent fouls from opposition players and, although agreeing with the decision to send him off, understood Zaha’s frustrations.

It did not take long for the nineteen-year-old to silence those who critics however, as the day after his dismissal against Burnley; he was announced as the npower Football League Young Player of the year, beating Blackpool’s Matt Phillips and Brighton’s Lewis Dunk to the award.

Such recognition has only intensified the level of interest in the Palace youngster, with a number of Premier League clubs reportedly tracking his progress.

Having cemented his place in the squad however, making over eighty first team appearances in the progress, Palace will undoubtedly be reluctant to sell. The Eagles made this crystal clear as they rejected a very public bid of around £8million from Bolton Wanderers, with co-owner Steve Parish labelling the bid an ‘insult’.

The South London club have every right to demand a high price for the tricky forward, especially when considering the substantial transfer fees spent on the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton in recent times.

More importantly though, Palace managed to tie Zaha down to a new five-and-a-half year deal before the January window, meaning that Freedman has the opportunity to utilise the wonderkid to help fire the club into the Championship Play-Offs in the coming season.

By Steven Gyford

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