Junior Eagles had a taste of what it feels like to play against members of the first team, when Palace players Wilfried Zaha and Alex McCarthy joined in the action at a Junior Members training day event this week.
Following an impromptu Q&A where questions varied from what Zaha eats for lunch, to McCarthy’s goalkeeping tips, the group split into small sided games where the Palace first teamers were only too happy to break away from the line of questioning, and get involved in matters on the pitch.
Having grown up in the local community and come through Palace’s youth system, Zaha said the event gave him fond memories of the times he used to play, although the opportunities on offer to young people has changed dramatically since he was growing up.
“It definitely gives me flashbacks to when I was this young and it’s nice to get involved and it’s been really fun, one of the kids was chasing me around saying he was marking me! I didn’t get this chance when I was young (the opportunities they get now), and for the players to actually make time to come and meet them, it’s a lot different.”
Hosted by CPFC Foundation coaches, Junior Eagles Members enjoyed a morning of games, training drills and exercises, before the two senior players arrived having just finished their own training session, and McCarthy acknowledges the importance of connecting with young fans who become loyal supporters at an early age.
“It’s good to give something back to community and to the kids who look up to you, it’s the least you can do to put a smile on their face, and you can see it means the world to them. Seeing these kids really enjoying themselves - it’s what you want to see. When they’re growing up and come and watch you on a Saturday and then to get to meet you in person it’s special.”
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