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Rak-Sakyi and Adaramola on 'crazy' season, Vieira hairdryer and journey so far


Sitting in the first-team gym at the Training Ground, Tayo Adaramola and Jes Rak-Sakyi look around sheepishly. They are only across the road from where they play their Academy football, and yet here is increasingly feeling like home.

It’s been a whirlwind season for both. The pair have made their professional debuts in front of sell-out crowds, and have been training with the senior squad for the vast majority of the campaign. Rak-Sakyi capped a remarkable season by starting against Manchester United on the final day.

But success was never a given – indeed, both had to deal with their fair share of rejection before finding a place that felt like home.

“I was at Chelsea from the age of eight to 16,” Rak-Sakyi tells the Official Crystal Palace Podcast. “I wasn’t able to get a scholar there.

“It was really tough. As a kid all you know is Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea. To be let go and then to find something new is really tough.

“Palace took me in. They had a plan for me and that was really good for me and my family to hear, that they would look after me and develop.”

Adaramola’s journey was packed with similar uncertainties. His mother made the decision to move the family to London from Dublin when he was just 12-years-old.

“It was a tough decision at the time, but my parents thought it would be best for my siblings and I,” he remembers. “At the start a lot of tears were shed, but look at the end of it. We can only be happy.

“At the time I knew that rejection was going to be part of the plan. It’s not going to be an easy journey… I knew that if someone didn’t accept me the next person will, to just keep working hard and hopefully that chance would come.”

He worried Palace wouldn’t be that place, however.

“After the first session I went back to the car and started crying,” he remembers. “I was like: ‘There is no way I’ll be able to make it into this football club.’

“The first couple of months were rough to adapt but I'm thankful.

“Back then I was a No.9 – quick, getting the ball in behind and scoring goals. First game I scored two so from that moment I thought: ‘Maybe I have a chance here.’”

Rak-Sakyi remembers meeting Adaramola for the very first time, and being impressed with what he saw.

“I met him at a training session in the park, and I was thinking: ‘This guy is not his age!’ He was too big, too strong to be 15.”

Adaramola remembers the same session. “I just knew that this guy was mad technical – every time the ball was glued to his foot. I knew he was a good player.”

To this day, the friendly rivalry between the two players is something the coaches try to encourage. “They love it, the battle between us two,” Adaramola says. “They try to put us against each other every session in the Under-23s, because they know that we can test each other – they know we can get the best of each other as well.

“When I'm up against Jes I know I have to be on my A-game and not let anything slip, and I hope that is vice versa.”

Rak-Sakyi feels the same: “When I'm up against Tayo I have to be switched on. He’s really aggressive, he’s on the front foot. If I take too many touches he might come behind me and intercept it, so I have to change my game and play one or two touches.”

Off the pitch though, team spirit is strong.

“We go to the arcade – we have TGIs [TGI Fridays, the restuarant] once in a while to treat ourselves after a game,” Adaramola says. “We’re going to Cyprus for a couple of days – this is going to be our first boys' holiday.”

“It’s really exciting. It’s a deserved break with my boys,” says Rak-Sakyi. “Team spirit is strong. We’re not just friends on the pitch, we’re friends off the pitch too. It’s important that we’ve got a lot of team bonding there.

“We’re really tight, and that’s good.”

Academies are competitive places, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t proud of each other’s achievements. Adaramola remembers seeing Rak-Sakyi make his debut

“The Under-23s had a game, so on the way back all of our phones were on the live stream,” he remembers. “We were looking at it and they were like: ‘Jes is coming on,’ and we were screaming, gave him a clap.

“When he got back he saw all the messages that we left for him. It was exciting – and great for the Academy because it shows what can happen if you continue to work hard.

“It’s important that you’re not too selfish. You’ve got to want other people to do well, clap for other people to do well. Your time will come as well, and then other people will clap for you, so it works both ways.”

That final message will be music to the ears of the Academy coaches. These two young players are demanding of themselves – they want more, and they want to succeed, but it hasn’t prevented them from maintaining their team spirit.

This season has been something special for both Jes Rak-Sakyi and Tayo Adaramola. Next season could be more memorable still.

For the full conversation with both players, including advice from Patrick Vieira, changing room ‘hairdryer treatments’, and training with the first-team, check out the full podcast episode HERE.