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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Warren meets... Wilfried Zaha

It's been quite a journey for a man, or, at the age of just 19, a boy who many tip for the top. Wilfried came down to my second home, Southampton for a chat on "Black History Month". I went down there too and managed to catch up with the Crystal Palace and England under-21 attacker.

WL: Wilfried, you've been at Crystal Palace your whole career and were taken on at Selhurst Park at 10 years of age. How were you spotted?

WZ: Basically, I went to a school called Whitehorse Manor and I played for the school team. We used to get entered for a number of different tournaments. We had a really good school team and we used to win most of them. One day, one game, a Crystal Palace scout came to watch us, liked what he saw and from then three of us got selected. When we got selected, out of the three of us, I was the only one who managed to stay on. I had to put in so much work - on my own, at home, practising in the back garden so yeah, I managed to stay, come up through the ranks and get to where I am now.

WL: Any ideas who the scout was that helped you seize your chance?

WZ: I can't really remember his name.... Dave... I think his surname was Webber... yeah, Dave Webber I think.

WL: The other two who didn't make it, do you remember their names?

WZ: I actually don't know what their doing really. One of the others is still a friend. His name's Adrian Thomas and I think he's still in education. I still keep in contact with him quite a bit but the other one, I don't know his name and I haven't a clue what he's doing.

WL: Of course, Palace have a very good reputation of bringing through youngsters such as you and Nathaniel Clyne, are you looking to follow in his footsteps and play in the Premier League, possibly with Palace?

WZ:  Yeah, definitely. That's my goal, that's where I want to be. I'm really enjoying it at Palace but anyone at my age will have the same goal and the Premier League is definitely a level I want to reach looking to the future.
CLYNE: Now playing for Southampton 
WL: You obviously know Nathaniel well, I take it the both of you still keep in touch?

WZ: Yeah, we do. Before a game, he'd send me a message saying "Good luck" and of course, I'd return the favour by wishing him the best of luck before any game that he plays. We're both friends and we constantly keep in contact all the time because we were both really close when he was with me at Palace.

WL: I can't not ask you about the Manchester United match last season. I've been there as a fan but playing there, walking out and getting the win must have been incredible!

WZ: It was sensational! No words can really describe what it felt like to be honest with you. To play at Old Trafford, against those players - who I looked to as role models and watching them on Match of the Day every Saturday night was unbelievable. To get the result as well was just mind-blowing. It was crazy!

Zaha (yellow) sheilds the ball from United right back Rafael
WL: You're a very highly rated footballer who many, myself included, believe are one of the best players in the Championship. When you're booed by opposition fans due to being a good player, does that motivate you to perhaps play a little bit better in a way?

WZ: It does. Because of all the grief I get from "bitter" fans, it motivates me more. I'm here for a reason and fans like to say I'm over-rated so I like to show them that I'm here because of what I've done, I'm not lucky to be picked, I've earned myself the right to be playing.

WL: Dougie Freedman (Palace manager) has left the club to join Bolton Wanderers, is that something that surprises you?

WZ: I'm dissapointed to see him go. I first met him when I was 14 so he's always been around the place in some key years for me. He's a good man and I've sent him a message saying goodbye and wishing him the best.
FREED: Zaha is sad to see his manager leave
WL: Let's talk about your international career now and looking in from the outside, I can see there are some very good players such as Tom Ince and yourself in the England under-21s. What are your views on the squad from inside the camp?

WZ: Being able to play with some of the best young players in England altogether is something that's difficult to explain.... There's not one player in the squad who isn't good if you know what I mean?! Players like Raheem Sterling for example who has got loads of tricks and lots of pace - playing with these guys just motivates you to play better with all the talent that you have around you really.

Sterling has broken through the Liverpool ranks this season
WL: Of course, we must talk about the unsavoury incidents in the Serbia game last week. You played in the match. It was shocking wasn't it?

WZ: It was just disgusting to be out there and to be treated in that way. The good thing was that Stuart Pearce (England under-21 manager) just told us what to expect. He told us not to react and just to have a professional mindset out there to do the job of getting to the European Championships and get it done. We already had a plan in our mindsets - we had to take it in and not let it affect us. It was ridiculous really to get that level of abuse.

Zaha leaves 3 players in his wake during the "disgusting" game
WL: Do you get that level of abuse over here in any of the games you have played in the Championship?

WZ: I got it once.... It was against Millwall. I don't let it affect me really. I go there to do what I have to do on the football pitch and then leave when the game is finished. I don't have to get into anything like arguments with any of the fans. To tell you the truth it doesn't get to me and at the end of the day, I'm only there to play football.

WL: You mentioned the Euro's earlier, what can England achieve from that tournament? Is the sky the limit?

WZ: Literally, the sky is the limit with the players we have. When you look at the quality in the squad then I really don't see any reason why we can't go there and win it.

WL: In the future, do you have any interests in playing abroad? Would someone like a Barcelona or Real Madrid be something that would interest you?

WZ: Definitely. That's one of my goals as well. I'm still young but playing for one of those teams is something I'd like to do - they're two of the best teams in the world.

WL: So Spain is the aim?!

WZ: Definitely. Spain IS the aim!

Many thanks to Wilfried for taking the time out to speak to me.

Some photos courtesy of The Sun, TalkSport & Zimbio


  1. Wilfried please stay with Palace for as long as possible mate, don't want to see you warming a bench like so many other Palace potential legends!!

  2. Very nice to hear from wilf seems he's got his head in the wright place. Just hopeing he can see the season out befor thinking of a move to bigger places.