After an impressive pre-season that saw him end as top scorer with four goals, Sullay Kaikai has admitted that his recent experiences in the Palace first-team have made him hungry for more action this coming season. The 20-year-old made his Premier League debut as a substitute on the final day of last season away at Southampton, an experience which he said has helped his game progress massively.
“I learned a lot just from that half, it was great to see what the Premier League was all about,” he said. “I’ve been trying to implement the new stuff I learned from that game into my own.
“That’s always the aim for me: to get first-team football at Palace. I’ve grown up here and I love the club, so it’s my end goal to play in the first-team here and hopefully do really well.”
Not only has that experience helped to develop him as a player, but so has the opportunity to watch the other wingers in the side up close and personal, with Kaikai adding: “In training every day you can see the qualities that they have. They’re looking to impress the manager and I need to make sure I’m up to that level to compete for a starting place.”
Of the aforementioned wingers, Kaikai believes that he and Andros Townsend are the most similar, but not identical, revealing: “I like to come in off the line and get my shots off, so that in that sense I’m like Andros. But I like to think that I have my own identity, that I play differently and bring something different.”
After finding the net regularly in pre-season, his free-kick against Bromley was the one which caught the eye the most. For those who have followed his career closely to date, it’s a part of his game which he values highly: “I practise them a lot, naturally I’ve got good technique but it’s something I wanted to add into my game because it’s a way of scoring goals! I want to score in every game, so if I get the opportunity to take a free-kick I’m always looking to shoot.”
Despite exciting fans in the friendlies, Kaikai is fully focused on the coming season. The acquisition of Townsend as well as Steve Mandanda and James Tomkins have added undoubted depth to the squad, and Sullay has suggested that they already feel like part of the group.
“They’ve settled in well; the squad have helped with that. I feel like the team spirit is good and the manager is still looking to bring in a few more players, so the competition is going to be healthy. With that, we can push teams all the way and hopefully progress far in the cup like last year and improve on our league position as well.”
With the hopes for the team expressed, Kaikai revealed his own personal ambitions: “In my head I have a number of appearances and starts that I want to make, and a number of goals too. That’s more of a personal goal though, I just really want to break into the first-team.
“I always want to stay here, but at the end of the day it’s down to the manager and the coaching staff to decide whether I’m ready. I’m just going to try my hardest and see where that takes me.”