The Loan Star State

Now, where were we?

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. Up to sixth, into the next round of the Cup.

And then came the crash.

But Saturday was surely part of a turnaround. We should have been ahead before Dele Alli scored that goal!  And given this weekend’s results we probably lost to a Champions League side, maybe better than that.

Anyway, that was all covered by Michael Stokoe on the site.

Before the brief hiatus at the website, I had looked at the forgotten cup run of 1994/95.

Looking back the squad looked like one that should have been able to stay up and become a mainstay of the Premier League. Instead, the best players in the relegated squad chose to stay in the Premier League and leave the club.

One of the things that I had forgotten about that squad was just how many were home grown youth team products. The likes of Gareth Southgate, John Salako and Richard Shaw had successful careers at Palace and would continue their careers in the Premier League.

Among those who remained for the almost heroic 1995/96 campaign the following year, which ended with tragic defeat at the battle of Claridge’s shin, were Dean Gordon, George Ndah and a young Leon MacKenzie.

Salako was the first of this batch of youngsters to play first team football, in the old Second Division, making his debut at the age of 17 in 1986/87. Shaw and Gordon were 18 when they first played while Southgate was a late developer, making his debut aged 20.

These guys might have been kids initially thrown in at the deep end at a young age, but became regulars and players with impressive careers. Such early initiation of young players does not seem to happen as much any more.

There is Wilf of course and it was nice to have Jonny Williams back, however briefly, but that is about it, at the moment.

We are moving closer to the model adopted by other Premier League clubs of offering the best players emerging from our academy and youth teams on loan to Championship, League One and League Two sides.

If they are ready for first team Premier League action, they are more likely to be in their early 20’s, rather than 17 or 18.

In one case at Palace, it was not just academy graduates who have been loaned out.

Signed for an undisclosed fee and sold, while we were offline, for an undisclosed fee, poor Jack Hunt had an undisclosed career at the Palace. He never played for the first team, not even the first League Cup game of the season.

I know that is partly because the second thing he did at the club after signing a contract was break his ankle in training. I know that the transfer targets the club has now are different to those we had in September 2013, but if a £2 million signing cannot get a game, it is going to be tough for an academy kid to make it.

The gap between the level those academy kids are playing at and the Premier League seems to be getting wider as the club improves. Is there any likelihood that the guys playing at Plymouth, Shrewsbury or Hartlepool can be starring in the first team in the next couple of years.

The first goal scored by a Palace player on Match of the Day on FA Cup Third Round day was not Joel Ward’s equaliser at St Mary’s but Jake Gray’s equaliser for Hartlepool against high flying Derby.

And Gray, 20 on Christmas Day, has done well on loan at Hartlepool. As has Hiram Boating (also 20 years old) at Plymouth.

Another two players born in 1995 have done well on loan. Sulley Kaikai at Shrewsbury, scored five goals in fourteen league games. Keshi Anderson started really well at Doncaster, with three goals in seven games, before injury.

Kaikai and Anderson have had the sort of performances a Premier League club wants from a young striker in the lower league who shows potential.

There is an excellent example of where that potential can go.

This player who scored five goals in eighteen games on loan at Orient, seven in twenty-two at Millwall and two in thirteen games at then Championship side Leicester City who will probably play for England in the Euros next summer.

He scored from a near post header at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Harry Kane may not be one of our own, but he stands as an example of what can be achieved by experiencing competitive, lower level, football.

Meanwhile, Dele Alli is still 19.

 

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