A source of light in the darkness of Palace's injury crisis, Jairo Riedewald has proven himself in recent weeks, trusted with a midfield role against some of the division's toughest opposition.
It was a difficult start for life in the Premier League, but Riedewald has settled in and is beginning to show why he was a key member of the Ajax side that made the Europa League Final in 2017.
Trying to show what he could do to a new manager after a goalless, winless start to the campaign could have sapped the motivation, but the 21-year-old knuckled down, worked hard and is beginning to show what he can do.
His attitude to training and team selection is first class and he has a mature, professional outlook on his role within the squad, refusing to get frustrated when he’s not playing and performing well when he is.
“It’s not a case of frustration,” he says. “I’m always training hard, I’m always doing my best. To be honest, the first eleven who are normally playing did very well, they had some wins and some draws, so at that point you have to be patient and work hard.
“If the manager needs me I’m there. I want to work hard for the team every week. Just train hard, stay positive and your chance will come.
“I want to play. I want to come on to the field or begin the game as a starter. I’m patient and I’ve been waiting for my chance. Now I have that chance and I want to play and to do my very best.”
He has been patient. He has worked hard. Signed in the summer, Jairo had to deal with the fact that when Roy Hodgson took charge he would have to show the new boss what type of player he was.
“I like the new manager, I like his vision, I like the way he thinks,” he says. “These things (managerial changes), they happen in football, so just go on and show the new manager what you’re about and that he can use you whenever he wants.
“I think in the beginning he didn’t really know me. He spoke to me and said ‘I don’t know you that well, so just show yourself in training and in cup games and we will have a look.’ I was like ‘okay, that’s fine,’ and after a few weeks he started to get to know me, what type of player I am and he spoke to me again and he said: ‘you’re a good player and I like you. You’re still very young, but if I see a chance to play you I will.’
“I got some positive vibes from that, it motivated me to train hard, to keep going, and I’m ready whenever he needs me.”
He’s needed now. An impressive display in one of those cup games, at home to Huddersfield Town, was a glimpse of Jairo Riedewald the central midfielder – and the full picture was revealed on New Year’s Eve against Manchester City.
Another good showing against Tottenham, in which he covered nearly 11km, in Yohan Cabaye’s absence, has earned Riedewald a lot of plaudits.
“If you look at our last game against Tottenham, particularly in the first half, I thought we played a decent game. We were organised and everything went okay [until the end]. If that game was a draw you can take the positive things out of it, but we have to go on, look at the next game on Monday and hopefully we can do it again for our home fans.”
Another who impressed against Spurs was Academy graduate Aaron Wan-Bissaka - and Riedewald says that the club’s current injury crisis gives other players an opportunity to show their worth and bring their skillsets to the table.
“We have had a lot of injuries and that means players have to come in to replace those who are injured,” says Jairo.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that the player coming in is a worse player, but they may offer something different. For example, the injuries at right-back meant that a young player, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, came in and did very well to fill that space up.
“We just have to adjust some things. We have other players who can score a goal or give an assist, we just have to give them the confidence to do it now. I’m confident that in the coming weeks we will score goals and win games.”
Next up is Manchester United at Selhurst Park. Fresh from seeing off Chelsea, the Red Devils will be looking to build on that result and continue their stellar record against the Eagles, who are yet to beat United since returning to the top flight.
“It was a heavy defeat [in September]”says Riedewald. “If you go to Old Trafford you know it’s going to be a difficult game. We lost the ball too easily and they scored two goals maybe, I’m not sure, in the first half.
“We are looking for revenge in our own stadium, in front of our own fans. We need the win for the confidence and for the club. I’m looking forward to the game. It will be difficult, but we’re a very organised team and we don’t leave much space when we play at home with of our own fans behind us. It’s difficult to play against us because of that organisation, the lack of space and on the counter attack we can do some damage to the opponent.
“Everybody knows the Premier League. It’s the best league in the world and when you play here you get the chance to take on some really big teams and that’s why I wanted to come to the Premier League, to play these type of games: Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea - I’m looking forward to Monday.”
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