The Premiership has established itself as the most commercially orientated domestic league in world football. Every team that competes in England’s top division is now financially powerful and can pay the kind of salaries that can attract the game’s biggest stars from across the globe. Often with that increase in spending comes a separation between club and community. Local players seem to be more regularly overlooked in favor of the acquisition of readymade imports from overseas.
In an ideal world, clubs would of course like to strike the perfect balance between producing home grown talent and signing elite players, but with increased money comes increased expectations, meaning managers must prioritise short term success. This makes it more difficult to blood young players who are always more likely to make mistakes during their formative years. Mistakes can lead to defeats. Defeats can lead to a manager losing his job.
One Premier League club who are determined to keep true to their home grown player traditions is Crystal Palace. The high flying Eagles sit in 6th place having enjoyed a terrific start to the season.
Rooted firmly in South London, Palace have always prided themselves on their ability to identify and hone the talents of the “street footballers” that populate their local catchment area. It seems apt that a club so intent on building an institution with solid foundations would be sponsored by Mansion. This group is a global online gambling business, who owns a few online casinos like Casino.com.
In an interview with football podcast “Men in Blazers”, Pardew explained how Palace will always look to continue that club culture:
“The traditions of this football club are players from working class backgrounds growing up in tough environments, and we have utilized the street football of the players that we produce. The first team represents this and we won’t ever stop putting players like Zaha, Bolasie, Sako on the pitch because that is us. If you look at the club historically, we have produced wingers usually from ethnic backgrounds, who have been up against it and have got tricks and skills that they want to show the world and that’s the type of players I like – that’s the type of player we’ll have in this team as long as I’m here.”
Alongside current first teamer Wilfried Zaha, Palace has also produced players like Victor Moses, Wayne Routledge and Nathaniel Clyne all of whom are Premier League regulars at other clubs. In a city packed with top level clubs, you’d imagine that attracting London’s best young players to Selhurst Park would be extremely difficult, but Alan Pardew explains that Palace approach things a little differently:
“People think we’re competing with the Arsenal and Chelsea, but we’ve got a completely different market, we scout differently to the top clubs. There are a lot of migrants in the area who have only just joined schools and they’re bringing talent into the country which we have first pick on. We look for players who’ve been struggling at school and we try and take care of them. But the most important thing is we look to players who love the game, if they love the game and are willing to learn then we’ve got the coaching ability to bring them on.”
That kind of approach will always help to nourish the connection between a club and their neck of the woods. Premier League clubs are often criticized for the apparent detachment from their fan base but with Palace there is a greater sense of kinship between player, club and supporter and it’s refreshing to see.