Nathaniel Clyne has been there before: rising through Crystal Palace’s Academy ranks from the age of 14 to becoming a Premier League player for the Eagles. Between his two spells in south London, Clyne competed with Southampton, AFC Bournemouth and Liverpool.
As such, his career followers would be forgiven for assuming he knows all there is to know about Palace after eight years away. But they would be wrong.
Speaking with Premier League Productions, Clyne revealed how Palace has changed since his days in red and blue, marking out what ways the club is improving.
He said: “I’m familiar with the surroundings, the area, the club, obviously, because I’ve been here before. I know a lot of the players from before so that also helped me to settle in. I know the manager as well, through being with him in England days. It’s been good and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
“Palace has been in the Premier League for a very long time now so it’s coming across like we’re an established Premier League side, which is good for the whole team and for the fans as well because we’ve got great support. I’m sure they’re enjoying Palace being in the Premier League as well.
“It’s different from when I was here. There are a lot of quality players now, we’re attracting top internationals and looking really good.
“You can see the club is getting bigger, moving in the right direction which everyone can be thankful for. As I said before, the fans will be happy with it, which is important.”
The affection between Clyne and the Palace faithful has stood the test of time, with the 29-year-old warmly welcomed back to his former club this summer. But Clyne’s fondness for SE25 doesn’t simply reside with his affection for the fans, revealing a joy to be back with a club he always held dear.
“It’s mainly because it’s my local club” he says. “I was born and raised in south London and it’s local to my family. I’ve been at Palace since I was 14, played right through the youth team and this club gave me the opportunity to play in the first-team. I owe a lot to Crystal Palace for the career I’m having.
“I remained in contact with a lot of players. A lot of coaches and staff I owe a lot to for making me the player I am now: training me throughout the youth team, developing my defensive game and my attacking game which helps me in the squad.”
One coach Clyne is acutely accustomed to is current Palace manager Roy Hodgson.
A former England manager, Hodgson worked with Clyne as part of the Three Lions set-up. Now with the two reunited at domestic level, Clyne is able to reveal how working with a former coach has benefitted him:
“It’s good to be back working with the gaffer. I know his style of play, I know what he wants from the players. It’s a familiarity which I’m used to and I’m enjoying it. It’s good to be given the opportunity to play again, which I’m thankful for and I’m looking forward to keep on playing and keep improving.
“We’ve done ever so well this season. You can see with our previous results we’re getting wins and scoring goals and looking good at the back also.”
Finally, Clyne was asked to pick his favourite memory from the first stint of his football career at Selhurst Park.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he picked his debut:
“I’ve definitely got good memories at the club, especially with my debut – probably my best memory. Everyone remembers their debut.
“Playing at home and it was live on Sky as well, so all my family and friends were watching - they all came down. I had like 40 tickets for that game. It was good; I enjoyed it and the memories will always stay with me.
“It was a Championship game against Barnsley and we won 3-0 I think. I was nervous before the game but also excited to have been given the call-up to start. During that week I signed my first professional contract with the club and also passed my driving test! It was a very good week for me.”
Driving test? Done. Debut? Done, twice. Professional contract? Multiple. Let’s hope for more good weeks to come for Nathaniel Clyne.
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