Andros Townsend has heaped praise on Palace assistant manager Sammy Lee for helping him reach his top form again since the turn of the year.
The winger has been one of the Eagles’ star performers since the arrival of Sam Allardyce and his backroom team, and after admitting that his early months with the club since his transfer from Newcastle United weren’t anywhere near his usual level, the England international has thanked Lee for some tough love that has rejuvenated his form.
Townsend said: “I was brought in to replace [Yannick] Bolasie and I can’t explain why I couldn’t perform to the levels that I am capable of. I was working hard every day in training but come Saturday it just wasn’t happening for me, and when you play bad and you come off after 60 minutes you get less confidence, and then as you’re not playing 90 minutes you get less fit too.
“Sammy Lee worked with me at England and saw how well I was doing in training there, coming on and making an impact, and three or four months later he’s come here and I’m on the bench. He pulled me to one side and had strong words with me.
“He said that when I go away with England every single day I train like it’s a cup final because I know that’s there’s other players ahead of me, and if I want to get a minute on the pitch I have to perform better than them. At club level I wasn’t doing that, and he said he wants to see the Andros he saw at England so that’s what I did. I needed him to tell me that, and now I’m in a good place and I have to thank Sammy for that.”
It’s been a helter-skelter time in Townsend’s career since the start of last year, which has seen him go from a reserve at Tottenham to an England international thanks to his form at Newcastle United before signing for Palace following the Magpies’ relegation.
Looking back on that period, he assessed: “There’s been a lot of ups and downs; if you go back to last January I was playing for Spurs’ under-21s against Liverpool at Chester, and then you fast-forward four months I was in England’s provisional squad for the Euros.
“I wasn’t getting the Spurs squad so I knew that I would have to move on, and if I was going to have a positive impact at my next club then I had to be playing football, so I asked the manager [Mauricio Pochettino] if I could play in the under-21s for the next month or so. He was happy, but in some of those games I wasn’t even standing out and I began to wonder where my career was going.
“Thankfully I was given the chance at Newcastle and I could play the football I was capable of. To go from playing in the under-21s to playing for a massive club like Newcastle, doing so well and being so happy playing first-team football and scoring goals, everything was so positive. But there was the one negative which was that we didn’t stay in the Premier League.
“I’ve finally settled here now, I had a difficult six months and wasn’t playing anywhere near the standard expected of me, but now the new manager has come in and his work is coming to fruition. From January to now we’ve been working on the defence and pressing from the front, making sure we get clean sheets and at a minimum a point. The fitness coach [Ryland Morgans] is also helping me massively and I feel on the right track. The fans and players have warmed to me and I’ve put in a great shift for the team on a weekly basis and hopefully that’ll continue.”
Townsend was speaking as part of his ambassadorial role for the Know The Score campaign, which is trying to raise awareness of bowel cancer throughout April which is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Know the Score will run from 1st to 8th April and will see clubs, charities and governing bodies unite to raise awareness of bowel cancer signs and symptoms. Bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer death in the UK, and research has shown early diagnosis is key to survival.
Speaking about the disease, Townsend said: “I first thought that bowel cancer affected senior people but seven years ago [Exeter City striker] Adam Stansfield died because of it so it affects young people as well. We need to spread the word and get people aware of the symptoms, and if they have them to get treated as soon as possible.
“It’s down to us as professional footballers to get involved with charities like this. We get a lot of stick for the negative stuff but we can do positive things too. When I was contacted I was more than happy to get on board and help raise awareness.”
For more information about the campaign, visit www.knowthescore.org.uk or follow @KnowTheScoreUK on Twitter.