By Andrew McSteen
Tonight sees Richard Shaw’s Palace under-23 side take on Nottingham Forest at Selhurst Park in the Professional Development League Play-Off game after the side wrapped up the Southern Division title last month.
One player making a name for himself in the under-23 squad is striker James Daly, with the 18-year-old left-footer racking up four goals in 16 appearances for the under-18s this season and a prolific nine goals in 12 matches for the under-23s – a league in which many first team players make appearances for fitness, or after coming back from injury.
Daly has been at Palace since under-14 level and Palace boss Hodgson saw for himself evidence of his potential as he scored a late equaliser in their 2-2 draw against Birmingham City in their final league match – a game in which Jeffrey Schlupp and Alexander Sorloth played as they returned to fitness.
“I watch all the under-23 matches if they’re at home – in Beckenham or Selhurst,” said Hodgson to the South London Press. “I don’t go necessarily to see particular players, but on this occasion, I went to see Jeff and Alexander returning from injury.
“But young James Daly has done very well, so well that he trained with the first team while Sorloth was injured, and again [in the lead up to the Leicester match]. He even made an appearance on the bench with the first team, and all of this at the age of 17 or 18.
“So, we’re well aware of him and well aware of the others too: Nya Kirby, Giovanni McGregor, Levi Lumeka, Jason Lokilo – we know them all.”
With Aaron Wan-Bissaka making the step up from the under-23s this season to the first team, Hodgson has certainly shown he is not afraid of promoting youth if they have the talent, but with his devastating injury list consigned to history, it will be hard for any of the young Palace players to get a look-in for the rest of this season.
“How much they will feature in the first team next season I couldn’t possibly tell you,” said Hodgson. “Next season there will be some whose contracts get renewed, some won’t, players will go in and out and there will be gaps in the squad.
“I am not averse to bringing somebody into the squad from the under-23s where there is a vacancy which I have already demonstrated with Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
“It’s up to them to force their way in, to make certain that they’re going to be better than any other potential players in that position.”
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