The Ivory Coast international is an established star in the Premier League, but it wasn’t always so easy for the proud south Londoner
Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha has said that he cried when he was a young man struggling to get games in the youth setup in south London.
He’s one of the first names on the team sheet at senior level as a 27-year-old. And made an attempt to leave in the summer, but the club were unwilling to part with him unless their valuation was met.
It hasn’t always been so easy for Zaha as he admitted in an interview with the Daily Express.
“When I was playing at Under-18 level there was a coach who told me I wasn’t good enough,” he told the paper.
“I used to go home and cry. My mum didn’t know what was going on.
“I was not getting games in the league. But then the FA Youth Cup came along and I got my chance. That was my breakthrough.
“You can’t let it get you down. I have had that in my career. I thought there was no way I was going to take that.”
The two clubs that were most interested in Zaha this summer were Arsenal and Everton. Palace play arch-rivals Brighton on Monday, and any result other than defeat will see them above both teams in the table headed into the festive period.
Zaha conceded that he was not in the right frame of mind earlier in the season, but has had a change of heart regarding the club that he’s played for since his school days.
“What happened is the summer did affect me. When the season started it was still in my head.
“But after a while I told myself that I have got to get over it. Going around sulking is not going to help. I told myself I can’t be like that.
“The team has not disrespected me, or the club, or the fans. So they don’t deserve me disrespecting them.”
Palace are 10th in the table and a win against Brighton could lift them to within four points of the Champions League places.
Zaha thinks his team is in good shape.
“We are definitely looking steady as a team right now,” he added
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“The team has got experience all over. A player like Gary Cahill coming in has really helped. He has this steadiness, he knows how to manage a game.”
He’s also happy to give back to the area that raised him and has donated money to his old Sunday League team, the Lambeth Allstars.
“The club has given so many people from the South London community a reason to come together and improve themselves both on and off the pitch,” he says of his old team, part of an assembly line of talent from the area, of which the Ivory Coast international is one of the brightest lights.