It’s been quite a year for Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Thrust into the first team spotlight back in February against the country’s best teams in a gruelling run of fixtures, England youth call-ups, cementing himself in millions of Fantasy Teams, and more importantly emerging as Roy Hodgson’s first choice right-back.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Manchester City with Premier League Productions, Wan-Bissaka reflected on a year that he considers the best of his life. “It started with the chance I was given to play in the Premier League. I was shocked when it happened, but it was a chance I had to take, and I feel I’ve taken it."
Reminiscing about that special week in February where he was handed a debut for his boyhood club, he said: "It started on the Friday. I went into the Analysis room, and checked the board – and my name wasn’t on the bench. I looked up and saw it in the right-back position. I was shocked, nerves kicked in. I was playing against Tottenham the next day.”
The Selhurst Park faithful quickly warmed to Wan-Bissaka as one of their own. A local lad, who had earned his stripes through the club’s Academy. Through his astonishing performances, he has built a cult status, and with utterances like this, it’s no surprise why he so loved by Palace fans: “It’s a big thing for me, Palace are my local team. I aim to build a future with this team and to see where it takes us.”
The fans’ support from the moment he walked out remains a source of inspiration for the young right-back, which he believes acts as a catalyst for the team’s performances. He said: “The fans give us confidence. We feel fearless, they carry us throughout the game which helps a lot.”
On the pitch, Wan-Bissaka has many sources of inspiration. Andros Townsend has been instrumental: “He is on my side – he’s been helping me ever since. If you lose the ball, you can go quiet – but he’s like “keep your head up”. He keeps pushing me, which helps me go again.” Looking to the left along the defensive line, he added: “I’ve got two leaders in Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins. Having them next to me, I don’t feel afraid. I know they’ve got me in all situations. The back four, we’re a team together. Our aim is just to defend.”
Anyone who has watched Wan-Bissaka will know that defending is not the only thing on his mind. Indeed, he is eagerly awaiting his first goal in red and blue: “I think I’m close. I’m finding myself in the box, I’ve had a few shots blocked – it’s only a matter of time!”
Looking to the next challenge, away to league champions Manchester City, Wan-Bissaka is typically unflappable, saying: “It’s the same as other games, it makes no difference to me. I just play my game, put the effort in and work hard. I know I’ll learn something from [playing versus Leroy Sane et al], to help me in the future. They’re smart players, we’ve got to be smart as well. We’ll look to gamble, as they look to take their chances.”
What will 2019 bring? Wan-Bissaka responds modestly, saying simply: “My aim is to keep my position, and to keep improving.”
For the full interview, click Palace TV in the app or head to eagles.cpfc.co.uk