Having seen Wilfried Zaha play 45 minutes against Chelsea last weekend and come through a week’s worth of training, Roy Hodgson is delighted to have the winger back at his disposal ahead of the trip to Huddersfield Town on Saturday.
The Ivorian winger missed five weeks after sustaining a knee injury against Newcastle United last month, and as was at the case at the start of the campaign, his absence hurt the Eagles who haven’t won any of the nine Premier League games in which Zaha has sat out.
That fact that isn’t lost on Hodgson, who speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the clash at the John Smith’s Stadium said: “It’s well-documented that we don’t get as many points when he isn’t playing or score as many goals, so we miss him in that respect and it will be very good to get him back on the field.
“He came on at half-time against Chelsea and I thought he did extremely well so it is good to have him back, and we’re hoping he’ll start where he left off before he got injured six weeks ago when he was playing very well.”
However, while the Eagles boss is keeping his fingers crossed that his star man can add to his four goals and two assists this season, he is keen to take some of the burden off Zaha’s shoulders, and challenged the rest of the Palace squad to find the perfect time to display their best form of the campaign with the finish line in sight.
“There’s a lot of pressure being put on him,” continued Hodgson. “Neither Wilf nor I can guarantee that he can find that level of form again – we hope so, and we believe he will and Wilfried Zaha will do his absolute best to show that, but I would rather not put him under that much pressure myself.
“I am certain that when teams are analysing us that Wilf will be mentioned on a few occasions because he has an exceptional ability to run with the ball and beat people, and all of those types of players are very important.
“All we want from Wilfried is the desire, determination and character to do what we know he can do. We’re sure we’ll have to help him through some disappointments because when you focus the spotlight so much on one person it can be very dangerous.
“I’m hoping that there will be a few other players who step up to the plate in the final eight games, and then it won’t be a question of not succeeding because Wilfried Zaha wasn’t as good as he was earlier in the season. If we don’t succeed it won’t be because of him, it’ll be because of the 11 Crystal Palace players I choose to play.”
Watch the full press conference now or if viewing on the App go to Palace TV on the bottom menu.