Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson is looking forward to getting the best from Wilfried Zaha’s continued commitment at Selhurst Park.
The 27-year-old has been linked with a move away during the last two seasons, but following the closure of the transfer window remains very much a Palace player.
Zaha is contracted to his boyhood club until 2023, having returned to south London to kickstart his career once again following a move to Manchester United in January 2013 which never really got going.
The forward impressed at the start of the new season, scoring twice in the Eagles’ 3-1 win at Old Trafford.
Ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Brighton, Zaha will be checked on a slight groin strain picked up on international duty with the Ivory Coast
Hodgson is in no doubt of just what a key man he is for the Palace squad, if somewhat acceptant that one day the time will probably come for Zaha to move on.
“Wilf’s contribution to Crystal Palace is well documented. My admiration for him and joy I have working with him is also well documented,” said Hodgson, who took over the Eagles job in September 2017.
“I speak to him all the time – and have been doing that for three years.
“He and I are so much on the same page, we were on the same page even two years ago and that has not changed.
“Wilf knows I would like him to be with me at the club and be available to play for me as manager.
“But he also knows that I am aware his ambitions perhaps are stretching higher than that sometimes and he would like a move to a club that can offer him Champions League football, which at the moment, we can’t do.
“But we are where we are, and he has been very mature about it all.
“I enjoy my relationship with him, the players in the team enjoy their relationship with him.
“We are conscious of the fact that when he is really on his game, he is a very, very difficult player to handle.
“And if we are going to have a good season, we are going to need him playing at that level, like the Wilf Zaha that we have known a loved for a long period of time, but there is only so much you can do to get into people’s heads.
“So far I cannot say one critical thing about him – he has been very good both in training and matches.”
After opening the new Premier League campaign with back-to-back wins, Palace were beaten 2-1 at home by Everton and then lost 4-0 at Chelsea before the international break.
Palace host Brighton on Sunday for what Hodgson understands is a somewhat ‘niche’ A23 derby – built on a rivalry which stems back to the late 1970s when the clubs fought their way up the leagues under Terry Venables and Alan Mullery.
“It is one which means a lot to our fans, so I know the importance of that for us to give a good performance and to win the game,” said Croydon-born Hodgson.
“But you must remember I have been a Crystal Palace supporter for a very long time. I spent a lot of time on the terraces as a boy during the 1950s and 1960s, the derby game then was Millwall.
“I was in Sweden during the Alan Mullery and Terry Venables confrontation, so I didn’t follow that scenario particularly closely, but I know the rivalry did come about and that it is there.
“I also know that it is going to be my responsibility as manager to make sure we are 100 per cent fired up and ready for the game because that is what our supporters expect of us now – just as when I was a kid, I was hoping the Palace manager fired them up to play Millwall.”