From scoring two vital goals to send Palace to Wembley back in 2013 to making his first appearance for England and signing for Manchester United, the rise of Wilfried Zaha has been eventual. Since his debut in March 2010, Zaha has been successful in his many seasons at Crystal Palace.
Over the last couple of years, Zaha has thrived under the likes of Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson. His fairytale story from Croydon boy to Ivory Coast international is set to continue in SE25 with the club currently in the fifth season in the Premier League.
Zaha made his first appearance for the Eagles first team in the 2009/10 season coming off the bench with 10 mins to go. Palace were losing 2-1 to then promotion chasers Cardiff City, with Palace fighting relegation having been deducted 10 points because of administration. Paul Hart was the caretaker manager during this season keeping Palace up in the last game of the season against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough earning a 2-2 draw. Later on, Zaha signed his first professional contract in April 2010.
Zaha became a key figure in the 2010/11 season scoring against Leicester City in the opening game of the season giving his side a 3-2 win at Selhurst Park. He also assisted Kieran Cadogan against QPR to equalise for the Eagles, but later on in the game they lost 2-1 to the West London outfit. On-loan James Vaughan was another player to profit from Zaha as he assisted the former Everton man against Watford at Vicorage Road. There was also controversy to surround the Ivorian later on in the season as he allegedly stamped on now Crystal Palace defender Patrick Van Aanholt when he was on-loan at Leicester City. The red card was later rescinded and Zaha made 44 appearances scoring once and assisting twice.
The Ivorian began the 2011/12 season with a brace against lower league opposition Crawley Town in a League Cup game on the 23rd August, after being rescheduled because of the Croydon riots. The highlight of the season for the winger was most certainly his dazzling display against Manchester United in the League Cup quarter-final to give Palace a shock 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Zaha troubled the United defence throughout the game, which attracted attention from big clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United. In March 2012, Zaha was voted the football league’s young player of the year award. Then manager Dougie Freedman opted to play Zaha as a striker and it paid off with the Ivorian scoring in the side’s 2-2 draw against Reading in a game that secured the title for the Royals. At the end of the season, Zaha won Crystal Palace’s young player of the year award for the second time in a row making 48 appearances, scoring nine goals and assisting 5 times.
Zaha started the 2012/13 season brightly getting an assist in Palace’s 2-1 win against Exeter City in the League Cup and earning a penalty in Palace’s 3-2 loss against Watford in the first league game of the season. On the 2 October 2012, Zaha secured a brace away to Wolves to earn a 2-1 win and he went on to do the same four days later, against Burnley in a 4-3 home after coming from two goals behind. Palace’s resilience was seeing them rise up to the table into the play-offs, something that was deemed a myth considering their poor start to the season. Manchester United ramped up their interest in the Ivorian loaning him back to Palace until the end of the season. This didn’t phase the winger as he scored his first goal since being loaned back in Palace’s 4-2 home win over promotional rivals Hull City. Zaha would then become the figurehead for Palace’s play-off campaign, scoring a brace against bitter rivals Brighton and winning the penalty in the play-off final. Veteran striker Kevin Phillips fired the ball into the top corner, securing promotion to the top flight for the first time since their 2004/05 campaign.
Wilfried Dazet Armel Zaha was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on 10 November 1992, making him 25 years old. Zaha moves to a England at the age of 4, growing up in Thornton Heath which is not far from Selhurst Park. He made his professional debut for the England first-team against Sweden before switching his allegiance to Ivory Coast as he became frustrated with Gareth Southgate leaving out the winger from the England team, despite Zaha being in the form of his life. Zaha lived with 8 siblings and was educated at Whitehorse Manor Junior school, Thornton Heath and Selsdon high school, Selsdon. Zaha played football for his school before being recruited to the Palace academy at the age of 12.
Early Youth Career
Zaha started at the academy of ASEC Mimosas, where he developed his best skills and attracted attention from various European clubs. Crystal Palace took an interest and offered him a move to their youth system. Zaha accepted the offer and Crystal Palace were able to persuade the young talent to South London where he became a trainee at the Glaziers’ academy. He spent three years there giving him the final touch to his preparations for the first team.
Second spell at Palace
After failing to impress at Manchester United with Alex Ferguson leaving shortly after he signed him, he returned to Palace on a season-long loan in the 2014/15 season after David Moyes frustrated the winger with little playing time.
The Ivorian didn’t take long to make an impact on his return to his beloved club, scoring a last-gasp equaliser in his first game back against Newcastle United in a 3-3 thriller at St. James’ Park. Later on in the season, he signed a five year deal for £3m with £6m add-ons. Zaha went on to play regularly scoring four times and assisting twice, helping Crystal Palace achieve their highest ever finish in the Premier League, finishing 10th.
In the 2015/16 season, he regularly started again making 34 appearances scoring twice and assisting once, despite Crystal Palace finishing a lowly 15th. However, the South London outfit went on to make an FA Cup final appearance against Manchester United with the Ivorian playing all 120 minutes, going on to lose 2-1 against Manchester United. Zaha also won the Palace player of the year for the first time.
In the 2016/17 season, Zaha was declined a penalty against Watford at Vicorage road, which resulted in the Watford mascot taunting the Ivorian as the Watford faithful thought that he dived. However, he went on to become Palace’s saviour scoring early on in the game against Hull City to help Palace with a thumping 4-0 win that kept the Eagles up and secured a fifth consecutive season in the Premier League. Twelve days later, he signed a new five-year deal with the Eagles.
Zaha has remained a saviour for Palace in the current 2017/18 having come back from injury to end Palace’s first seven games of the season winless and goalless helping them to a shock 2-2 win against reigning champions Chelsea. He has since helped Roy Hodgson’s side climb clear of the relegation zone and where would they be without this star man?