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International Eagles: Moses Leads Nigeria To Promised Land

22 June 2018

During this summer's World Cup, we are looking back at how former Palace stars have fared at international level. Today, Nigeria could be taking on Iceland with their star man having come through the ranks at SE25.

In just six years, a product from the Eagles' academy went from making his professional debut on a cold night at a ramshackle Ninian Park, to lifting the Africa Cup of Nations trophy high above his head in front of 85,000 fans in Johannesburg.

Since bursting onto the international scene in 2013 as Nigeria claimed their third continental success, Victor Moses' rapid rise has seen him win a Premier League title, a UEFA Europa League and last season's FA Cup at Chelsea. Palace's academy director Gary Issott's prophesy that he could be destined for the very top has been proved incredibly valid.

Issott said: “As soon as I saw him at the age of 14 I knew he would go on to play in our first-team. We accelerated him to the under-18s as fast as we had done any other player before him, so he was four years younger than some of the other players in that squad.

“We used to play him in central midfield as he had a brilliant passing range, terrific skills and strength but when he was 16 we converted him to a wide left player. We thought that would be his best route into the first-team and give him a little less defensive responsibility, and that's where he got his chance.”

Just like Wilfried Zaha would do three years later, Moses made his maiden Palace appearance as a substitute against Cardiff City and made 69 appearances over the next three-and-a-half years, scoring 11 goals before financial pressures saw him move on to Wigan Athletic in 2010.

“At the time there was so much interest in Victor and it was very hard keeping him here,” Issott said. “I don't think anyone can underestimate what myself, Paul Lowe and the other coaches did to keep him at the club because he could have gone at any moment.

“He wouldn't really show his emotions so you'd sit and talk to him and wouldn't be sure if what you were saying was sinking in, but years later we got him to talk to potential signings and he was telling them to come down because they'd get first-team opportunities.”

The 2013 AFCON success was Moses' crowning moment on the world stage. With Nigeria struggling to remain in the competition after a lacklustre start to the competition, he earned and scored two penalties against Ethiopia to send them into the knockout stages, where they defeated the Ivory Coast and Mali to reach the final, with Moses at the heart of proceedings.

With a reported 170 million of his countrymen watching on TVs back home, the former Eagle truly became a Super Eagle when he helped Nigeria beat Burkina Faso 1-0 to claim the trophy, his first taste of success of a fine career at club and international level.

“What he has achieved since has been phenomenal,” Issott added. “We always knew he could play in the Premier League, but to be playing for one of the top clubs in the country is fantastic for him. I think it's a great advert for our academy.”

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