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      My Story: David Ozoh


      In an in-depth interview filmed in January 2023, Crystal Palace Under-21s midfielder David Ozoh opened up to Palace TV about his career so far, making his debut with the first-team, and becoming one of the latest stars to progress through the Academy.

      My Story: David Ozoh

      Now a history maker as Palace's youngest-ever Premier League player, Ozoh, 17 at the time of the interview, was a prominent figure in the Under-21s side in 2022/23.

      The teenager featured in 14 of the 15 possible games he was eligible for in the first half of last season, having signed his first professional contract in August.

      Although he has been at Palace since the age of eight, Ozoh initially enjoyed a remarkable upbringing elsewhere. “I was born in Valencia, Spain,” he explained.

      “My parents decided to go there for better opportunities at the time, but I moved to the UK when I was eight-years-old. I came to Croydon; it was the first place I moved to, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

      “Valencia is really different to Croydon! It’s hot, it’s really good. I enjoyed my time there, so I was quite sad when I [initially] moved here, but it was for the better. We came here for a better opportunity.

      “I was speaking fluent Spanish, but no one believes me anymore! I forgot a bit of my Spanish - when people ask me to say things, I can't really - but I’m trying to pick it back up.

      "Vicente [Guaita]’s Spanish is too strong for me! You can tell he’s really Spanish - I try to speak to him [in Spanish], but it’s really hard.”

      While Ozoh’s bilingual proficiency might have dropped off, his ability as a footballer has been on the rise.

      During his time at Palace's Academy, he has repeatedly played above his age group, and has developed at an astounding rate in pursuit of his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

      “I’ve always wanted to become the person I am today, to become a professional footballer. I had that element of working hard from a young age.

      "I played football in Spain, a few clubs offered me trials, but we had to turn those down as we knew we were coming to England. I was a bit sad about that, but my parents told me they were doing it for a reason, and once we came to England I got picked up by Palace.

      “[In the early days] I played literally everywhere. I played as striker, winger, centre-back... but in the Under-15s season I played central midfield and I felt like it just clicked.

      "It was brilliant for me, and ever since then, I’ve never looked back. I’ve always been strong on the ball, being fast, playing quick. I’ve been developing the skills I already have and making them better to progress into the first-team.

      “I’ve always been bigger than my age group. That’s why they’ve tried to play me up a few times: to test me, and see that it’s not just about my strength, it’s also about my technical ability. I think I’ve done well when they’ve brought me up.”

      Learning from former professionals is a key part of any young player’s development. For Ozoh, this has proven to be an invaluable experience.

      Ozoh noted: “I’ve been training with the first-team for nearly a month now, and it’s been good. I’ve enjoyed my time there and they’ve made me feel at home across the road [at Copers Cope].

      “Paddy McCarthy gets a lot out of me. He demands hard work. He knows the quality we have, but we have to work hard - hard work beats talent. Paddy and Powelly [Darren Powell] are pretty much the same. They work well together, and that’s why we’re doing well [as Under-21s] in the league.”

      Training across the road is not the first time Ozoh has been in and around the first-team. The youngster featured in the 22/23 pre-season tour of Australia and Singapore, offering many Palace fans their first glimpse of his rapidly-rising talent.

      “I still think about Australia and Singapore all the time!" Ozoh reflected. "It was a really good trip.

      "Starting against Leeds was amazing in front of that many fans, as well as playing against Manchester United and Liverpool. There were a lot of Liverpool fans [in the Singapore National Stadium], but that’s when I realised there's a lot of love for Palace worldwide, a lot of fans like us.

      “In training, you kind of guess what happens [in terms of making the first-team squad], because a session is sometimes 11 v 11 and if you’re in a certain squad you can guess [if you’re starting] or if you’re on the bench.

      “As a little kid you’re dreaming of playing in the Premier League, so to know that you’re close is a great feeling. When you’re sitting there on the substitutes bench, you want to be ready - you might get called upon at any time.”

      And after making the first-team bench against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United in recent weeks, Ozoh’s dream of playing in the Premier League came true on 21st January, 2023 - aged just 17 years, eight months and 15 days - when he came on as a second-half substitute against Newcastle United, becoming Palace's youngest-ever Premier League player.

      The teenager surpassed the long-standing record of forward George Ndah, who was 17 years, 11 months and five days old when he played against Liverpool in November 1992.

      Ozoh beamed: “It means a lot. You put in all the hard work for this moment. It’s a dream come true. I can’t believe it – it’s honestly the best feeling ever.

      “When I got told to warm-up I was nervous, but when I got on, I felt good and obviously just tried to play it simple, make a few passes and grow into the game.

      “Honestly, coming on in this game was crazy. It was a game that we really wanted to win, and to be put on in this type of game shows how much trust the manager has in me, so I’m really pleased.”

      This month, he played over an hour of Palace's 2-2 draw at the home of the reigning Premier League and European champions Manchester City, impressing with his all-action display.

      Trust well placed, you would suggest - and, all being well, plenty more magical moments are to come in the story of David Ozoh.