Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has been awarded the npower Football League Young Player of the Month Award for October.
Since making his senior debut for Crystal Palace in 2010, Zaha has quickly solidified his position in the South London club’s ranks as a vital member of the first team. His performances during the 2011/12 npower Championship season deservedly earned him the Football League Young Player of the Year award as well as being named Crystal Palace Young Player of the Year.
Zaha has continued his form into the 2012/13 season and a number of stand-out performances in October, including a brace against Wolves and Burnley, have helped Palace to the top of the npower Championship.
Following his fine form in October the young forward also gained his first senior England cap against Sweden earlier this month. A number of his team mates that night were also products of the Football League Youth Development system including Joe Hart (Shrewsbury Town), Tom Cleverley (Bradford City), Ashley Young (Watford), Carl Jenkinson (Charlton), Ryan Bertrand (Gillingham), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield United) and Tom Huddlestone (Nottingham Forest/Derby County).
On winning the award, Zaha said: “I’m delighted and honoured to get the trophy because I’ve had a great month so I’m really happy.
“A couple of the games we had were really tough but we had to keep going and I’m glad I managed to pop up with a couple of goals. I’m pleased with my goals because I had a drought for a while so it felt good to get on the score-sheet.
“It was also a great moment for me to be (with England) with all the top players. It was a great to be with them and a great experience for me.”
Crystal Palace manager, Ian Holloway added: “It’s fantastic. He’s a joy to watch, to be with and to work with. For a young man he is getting a really fantastic high level of consistency, particularly as I think, being a wide man, you can be limited to the ball you get in certain games. When he gets it, what he does for the team, and when he hasn’t got it what he does for the team is exceptional. I’m very proud of him and so is everyone at Palace.”
Each season, Football League clubs invest more than £40m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent. Around a third of this money (£12.6m) is provided by the Football Association and Premier League. There are 8,700 young players registered with League clubs making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally co-ordinated young player programme in world football.
David Wetherall, Head of Youth Development at The Football League, said, “Wilfried is a young and exciting player who has certainly captured people’s attention over the past couple of years, especially this season.
At the age of 20 his skill and eye for goal is beyond his years and he is certainly one to watch for the future, I wish him all the best of luck for the rest of the season and beyond.”
Each month the accolade will be awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football. To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21.
During the 2011/12 season, 225 players aged 21 or under made their professional debuts in The Football League.
For more information on the award and each month’s winner visit www.football-league.co.uk.