BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
England U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd has nothing but praise for Crystal Palace summer signing Eberechi Eze – and believes the attacking midfielder has more to offer.
The 22-year-old South Londoner was snapped up by the Eagles in August in a deal which could eventually net QPR £20million.
Eze collected his fourth cap as the young Three Lions beat Turkey on Tuesday to seal their place at Euro 2021.
The Greenwich-born playmaker picked up an assist in the 3-3 draw against Andorra last week as he set up a goal for Eddie Nketiah, who is now England U21s’ record scorer.
“He [Eze] is obviously very, very talented and I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere near the best of him yet,” Boothroyd told the South London Press. “He’s a terrific signing for Palace. He couldn’t have a better manager to go to in Roy [Hodgson], who’s been there, seen it and done it, and will really help him.
“One of the things about him, which is probably one of the nicest things, is what a genuine good character he is.
“He’s desperate for information: ‘Give me some knowledge to make me better’. He’ll do anything to get better.”
Eze started on the left side of midfield against Andorra before moving over to the right and going through the middle in the second half, when he expertly set-up the Lewisham-born Arsenal forward Nketiah to put England 3-2 ahead.
Many Eagles fans would like to see him in a free role for Palace.
Boothroyd said: “I’ve found working with him that he doesn’t tend to finish where he starts. It’s about getting the balance right around him.
“Inverted wingers [like Eze] tend to want to come inside – lefty on the right, righty on the left, and sometimes they’re sort of fighting for space – but that’s where the next level of player is.
“That understanding between Eddie and Eberechi the other night where he’s managed to come off the line and flick that brilliant pass through, I didn’t see it [coming] and I was sat in the stand.”
After previously representing England U20s, Eze was called up by Bothroyd for the first time in September 2019, when the Greenwich-born player was still at QPR. He made his debut as a late substitute against Albania before his first start against Holland a few days later.
Immediately after signing for the Eagles, he was called-up again by England U21s, for matches against Kosovo and Austria, but withdrew due to a groin issue.
Eze was released by Millwall in April 2016 but bounced back to become one of the outstanding attacking talents in the Championship.
Boothroyd said: “A lot of players have had a bit of a knockback and you’ve got a decision to make about it – whether you listen to what’s been said or whether you be bloody minded and go on and make a career for yourselves. That’s what Eze’s done.
“He’s a very talented player and he seems to be one of those guys that pressure doesn’t get to him. He just deals with it.
“He’s calm, he’s very composed and he’s very cool. Around the group he’s great, he’s very relaxed. He’s probably everybody’s favourite player amongst the staff because he’s just a joy to work with and, as I said, I think Roy will be great for him.”
Tyrick Mitchell also looks in a strong position to join Eze in the England U21 set up after playing the full 90 minutes in Palace’s last six Premier League matches.
Boothroyd places significance on players clocking up game time for their clubs.
“There’s no reason why any player couldn’t put themselves into the starting line-up or the squad,” he said. “I’ll be out on the road and having a look and having a check on him.
“Our analysts and insights department are pushing players on me all the time. We’ve got some really good depth of talent…but there’s always one which comes out of the pack.
“There’s no reason why any player couldn’t put themselves into the starting line-up or the squad.
“It’s really important, whatever club you are playing at, that you train through the week and then you get the examination of what you’ve done and the opponent that you have to deal with on the Saturday.
“Then it’s about making sure they have that C-word – consistency; to be able to put in performances training session after training session and match after match.
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