Wilf Zaha: player of 2012, but not yet Palace’s all-time best

There will be few arguments at Selhurst Park as to who has been the Palace player of 2012. Season ticket-holder ZOE MESSENBIRD spoke to other fans, including co-owner Steve Parish, about where Wilf Zaha rates among the club’s all-time greats. Take part in our online poll below to vote for your choice

Palace's player of the year 2012: Wilf Zaha

Palace’s player of the year 2012: Wilf Zaha

“You have to make a chance and take a chance”. Steve Parish, Crystal Palace’s co-owner, used these words to describe his all-time favourite player at the club. For Parish, that is Ian Wright.

“He made chances out of absolutely nothing,” Parish said. “When you look at what he accomplished, Ian Wright has to be the clear winner.”

Parish mentioned the partnership between Wright and Mark Bright which made them an unstoppable force that took the club into the top tier of English football and all the way to a Wembley FA Cup final in 1990, where they took Manchester United into extra time and a replay.

Parish’s choice of his best ever Palace player does not suggest he doesn’t think highly of Wilfried Zaha. Parish believes Zaha has the potential to be as good as, or even better than Wright one day.

Wright spent six seasons at Palace, scoring 117 goals in 253 starts and 24 substitute appearances in all competitions, making him the club’s record goalscorer post-war, before he was transferred (for just £2.5 million) to Arsenal. Zaha has been linked to a similar move, perhaps as soon as next month.

Mark Bright (left) and Ian Wright, Steve Coppell's potent twin strike force at Palace just over 20 years ago

Mark Bright (left) and Ian Wright, Steve Coppell’s potent twin strike force at Palace just over 20 years ago

Even his biggest fans agree that Zaha still has parts of his game that need perfecting, and at only 20 years old, he has time to become even better.

No Palace fan wants Zaha to become a John Bostock, who got swallowed up by the media hype and at just 16 was bought by Rottenham Hotspurts, where he never delivered his potential.

A third season with Palace could put Zaha in the same category as Nathanial Clyne and Victor Moses, in being a consistent Premiership performer that has been home-grown in south London.

Who would have thought that when 18-year-old Wilfried Zaha made his debut at home to Cardiff City in March 2010 for a side with a caretaker manager (Paul Hart) and with a club in deep financial turmoil, that two years later Crystal Palace would be fighting off the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool to keep hold of the young winger who had already enjoyed his senior England international debut?

Peter Taylor: an all-time Palace great? Younger fans don't seem to have heard of him

Peter Taylor: an all-time Palace great? Doesn’t rate a mention from younger fans

The hype that has surrounded Zaha has not been unjustified. Having been a season ticket-holder for the last four years and a regular spectator since I was six, the skill and pure class that he possesses is an absolute pleasure to watch. He is undoubtedly one of the best players I have ever seen wear a Palace kit.

I asked fellow Palace fans about their views on Zaha being the club’s best player, or who their choice would be.

“Kenny Sansom was the best full-back we have ever had, but I would choose Andy Johnson as the best player ever to wear the shirt for his dedication and loyalty,” John Cushnie, a Palace fan for more than 50 years, said.

“There have been many Palace greats, with the likes of Jim Cannon, Mel Blythe and Johnny Byrne,” said Steve Bird, “but in my opinion the best player ever to wear the Palace shirt was Vince Hilaire. He was very quick and a skilful winger.

“I think Wilfried may be better than him as he gets older, but by then he will no longer be a Crystal Palace player.”

More recent names such as Ben Watson, Victor Moses, Wayne Routeledge and Nathanial Clyne seem to be a favourites among the younger Palace fans.

Moses is undoubtedly up there with the best Palace products, and was an amazing influence on the Palace academy side, scoring 50 goals for the under-14s as well as once scoring all five goals in an English Schools’ Cup final for Whitgift.

But his presence in the senior side before a transfer to Wigan was all-too-brief. Moses appeared in the Palace first team for three seasons, scoring 11 goals. Zaha has 14 goals already in less than two seasons.

You only have to come to a Palace match to see the amount of assists that Zaha makes, something that I believe sets him apart from other players. Even on a bad day Zaha is a nightmare for any defender.

And if Zaha continues to improve his game at the rate he has in the last few seasons, there is no reason why he cannot be placed up there with the likes of Ian Wright, Kenny Sansom, Don Rodgers or John Jackson as one of the club’s undoubted all-time greats.

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4 Responses to Wilf Zaha: player of 2012, but not yet Palace’s all-time best

  1. derekthrower says:

    Don’t believe the hype. The team’s success so far this season is based on the team not one player.. Cash in the chips in the January window and strengthen the squad to make a proper bid for promotion.

    • Sense that you’re right, though not sure that flogging one of your better players is necessarily the best strategy while the promotion challenge is still live.

      If you look at things, there’s a sense that maybe Moses was allowed to go when he did because they knew what was coming up through the youth ranks behind him.

      Is that the case now?

  2. No mention of Attilio Lombardo!?

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