As a club that has to rely upon its academy from time to time, Crystal Palace fans love to see one of their own in the first team picture. Several have broken through over the years, though few have made the impact of Wilfried Zaha and, though he has now left, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. However, for a few years now it has felt like academy talent only get intermittent minutes in the first-team. Tryick Mitchell has done a good job of establishing himself in the first-team fold, but he is just one of a few.
For current head coach Patrick Vieira, it would be easy to just focus on the first-team and thus demand signings. However, in an illuminating discussion on the official club website, Vieira laid out his ambitious plans for the academy. From the sounds of it, if he can keep performing as he has been then Vieira has no ambitions to move on from the club anytime soon. That could be a huge positive as the team looks to establish itself as a hotbed for interesting, exciting young talent.
What did Patrick Vieira say about the academy plan for Crystal Palace?
Speaking about the need to start building a better link between academy and first-team, Vieira was clear this is his ambition. The academy team has long been a source of pride for the club, and Vieira looks keen to tap into that positivity. The team has recently started to see two youngsters – Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Tayo Adaramola – come up to train with the first-team.
When asked about why this is important to the club, the Head Coach explained: “It’s important, because that is part of their development. It’s good to see them around the first-team, to see their personality and to see how they will conduct themselves in training and in the dressing room with players around.
“That allows me to learn more about them. We have Jes and Tayo training with us. They will be around the first-team for these three [remaining] games and some of the games they will be on the field. We need to give them and create these types of opportunities to see how they will react under pressure.”
He also provided a glimpse behind the scenes as he praised veteran utility man Jairo Riedewald for his influence on the young team. Vieira remarked on that: “When you are a young player and you are in the first-team, you are looking for someone to guide you. Jaïro did a fantastic job with Jes, and that gave him confidence.
“You always need someone around you to help you grow as a player. If Jes found that with Jaïro, then that is really positive. [Then] it is about balance in the team. Jes and Tayo have shown that they can play in our team in the Premier League. It’s just about having the right players around them to support what they are missing. The balance has to be right to allow them to play with confidence and belief.”
For Palace fans, this should be music to their ears – a chance that, in the future, we could see yet more of the youth from the academy playing in red and blue. For a club so connected to the community, this is vital.