This week in training we have been lucky enough to work with Assistant Manager Dougie Freedman and former Palace defender Tony Popovic, as they are both currently doing their coaching badges.
The sessions are very stop-start as they need to show the examiner they know what they’re talking about, but the sessions are enjoyable nonetheless. I’m not too sure what level badges they are doing, but from working with them a couple of times you can see how good their football knowledge is.
Remember, I am a fan of Crystal Palace as well as a player, so to get the chance to work with two former players who did so much for the Club when they were here previously is an extra bonus. I’m hoping we will still get to work with them once they have finished their badges, as hearing advice from two former professionals is invaluable.
The training with them has been more tactical than intense, which fits well as we are now coming to the end of the season.
We only have three Youth team games remaining (we are only playing Charlton once) so it’s now all about injury prevention and getting as much rest as possible. It has been a long hard season and everyone is looking forward to a well deserved break, but we want to end the season on a high and leave people with positive memories of us over the summer.
A good memory that we will definitely take with us over the summer is our win on Saturday away to Aston Villa.
Academy Match: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
As Aston Villa were playing in the FA Youth Cup on Friday night, our game was put back 24 hours to Sunday to give them extra time to recover. Villa came into the game on a massive high, after beating our conquerors Newcastle United to make it to the Youth Cup final.
That was something that one of our coaching staff, Sellsy, highlighted to us in the changing room before the game, that they would be coming in to the game a little bit cocky and expecting to beat us comfortably. Even though they made changes from the game on the Friday, they still had three over-aged players in their team so it was by no means a weak team.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know we were fortunate to come away with the win as they missed some very good chances and were probably the better team. But as I have said all season, it’s not how many chances you have, it’s how many you take.
We scored our first goal from a well worked free kick that had only been thought of last minute. It had only been tried for the first time in the warm-up, but it came off and against the run of play we were in front.
Our second goal was a great individual goal from Wilfried Zaha who had a good game. He ran onto a through ball, and from a very tight angle he managed to squeeze it in. I was right behind it and knew it was going in as soon as it left his boot.
They tried their hardest to wind Wilf up all game, but he managed to keep his cool and responded to them the best way possible. We had to defend well for the second half as Villa continued to attack, but some good last-ditch defending from Matt Parsons and Jonny Williams was enough to see us through.
To go to a Premier League team who have just got through to the final of the FA Youth Cup and come away with a win was a massive achievement and one the boys are proud of. We rode our luck, but who really cares? A win is a win and it puts us back into second in the league.
We are level on points with Chelsea but have two games in hand on them, so hopefully we continue the good form and finish in a well deserved position.