Zaha departed to join the Red Devils three years later but soon returned to the Crystal Palace on loan before making an indefinite return in 2015.
Zaha’s “enlightening” performance
Former Captain of the Crystal Palace Shaun Derry says that seeing Wilfried Zaha’s game for the first time was an “enlightening” experience. Zaha joined the Palace in 2004 at the age of 12 and rose through the youth system to debut as a 17-year-old on March 27, 2010. Zaha departed to join the Red Devils three years later but soon returned to the Crystal Palace on loan before making an indefinite return in 2015. Since then, he has played over 350 first matches for Selhurst Park and remains a vital part of Roy Hodgson’s squad. But former Northern Ireland midfielder Derry remembers when the 27-year-old was an unknown talent. “The first team and scholars to share the site, and we always saw Wilf watching the sessions and watching how our players behave themselves.”
The “quiet” child
“I remember watching one of his previous training sessions and seeing this young boy who played football the way I had never seen playing football before. Something very raw was happening on the training field, something of the streets. Like a 30-year-old who has been in the game for 14 years, this was a new phenomenon for me. “Being the captain of a team that was plunged into a potential lag amid falling into the administration, seeing this young guy playing a game with absolute freedom, was instructive to me.” Director of the Palace Academy Gary Issott knew Zaha since he first joined the youth system and said that he was a quiet child. He would come, do his job and not be a problem,” he said.
Top five in the group
“He was a good footballer and a top player, one of the top five in the collective. But he was not the one who, as a 16-year-old, played Under-18s, which many players did and continue to do as early developers.” The first three “For four months, he got used to full-time training and professionalism of everything and did not play as he would like in Under-18s.” He added: “Steve Bould made me a comment about Wilf when he took on the Arsenal youth team. So did Gary Brazil, who was an experienced trainer at Fulham. They said how many problems he caused them, how handful he was that day, and how difficult it was for him to play against.
“Outside of our club, there were more and more people against whom we played, and he made a mark. People will think that this is a common thing, it is not. Only time after time, people comment on special players in your team.”