How does one try to distil the essence of Wilfried Zaha into just a few words? It’s like trying to capture the importance of Mr Rolls to Mr Royce, or of Eric Morecambe to Ernie Wise. Palace and Zaha have been separated before and yet they are inseparable; they are iconic names in and of themselves, but together have achieved so much more.
The distillation of Zaha at Selhurst Park could be boiled down to a few sounds. The clatter of plastic seats as thousands rise to their feet in anticipation. The throaty, hoarse ‘GO ON’ from the stands as the chance grows clearer. The split-second silence as the ball races through the air, almost in slow-motion. And then the explosion of noise as the Palace No. 11 wheeled away, leaving the net bulging and the opposition goalkeeper sprawled in his wake.
But to sum him up in just those terms feels too simple, so why not let Zaha do it himself? “There are a few words you can associate with me,” he said earlier this year. “One of the main ones is: ‘Passionate’. However I feel, I will express how I feel.” Passionate is right – it’s how he conducted himself over a long and successful career in south London.
“What I do when I step on the pitch is try to stamp my authority on each game,” he explained. “Obviously, that’s going to have an influence on your team if you try to do that every single game. I will try to show that I'm one of the better players each game – every game – year after year after year. I didn’t think I would have the impact that I did, but I'm happy because I tried to keep the same standards every single time I played.”