BY SAM SMITH
Roy Hodgson has predicted a ‘big future’ for Crystal Palace prospect Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, who has shone for the club’s youth team this season.
The talented 18-year-old, who joined from Chelsea aged 16, has recently been training with the first team and was included in the travelling squad for the Eagles’ 1-1 draw at Everton last Monday.
Rak-Sakyi has scored six goals and assisted a further four across 12 appearances in the U18 Premier League South this season. The young Eagles, who are an exciting group, sit top of the division in their maiden campaign at the highest level of domestic youth football.
The winger has also scored a solitary goal in three appearances for the club’s U23 side. Hodgson has been impressed by the way the teenager has coped when called up to first-team duty.
“He’s dealt with it very well, I must say. For such a young man he has shown a remarkable maturity,” the Palace boss said.
“He has come into a group of senior players who he has probably only watched from the terraces before, but you wouldn’t notice that because his performances in the training sessions where he has really taken the responsibility that he is capable of taking.
“Everyone has taken to him and is appreciative of him and what he can do, so it’s nice that we have been able to have him with us in a situation where a vacancy has occurred because we have had quite enough senior players out of the squad to not be able to fill out our 20-man quota.
“I am very pleased with him, I’m very pleased for him, we believe at Crystal Palace that he has a big future and that he will get better and better.
“He has certainly started in the right way because being thrown into first-team training… we still had eight or nine of our first-teamers still with us last week. For him to come in and make the impression that he’s made and to get the senior players around him to appreciate his talents, that’s no mean achievement. He’ll be with us again tomorrow (for the game versus Chelsea).”
Achieving a first-team debut before the end of the season will be a tough challenge for the youngster, Hodgson insists. Palace are blessed with plenty of competition for wide roles, with options including Ebere Eze, Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp.
However, the 73-year-old Palace boss did not rule out using Rak-Sakyi from the substitutes’ bench in the final eight matches of the Premier League season.
“It’s not impossible, is it?” Hodgson said when asked if Rak-Sakyi might feature for the first team before the end of the campaign.
“I think the days, unfortunately, where – and you have got to go back a long way, even before my time in the Premier League – you actually gave away a few positions in the team at the end of the season just to give someone a run-out or to give someone else a bit of a rest… I’ve got a feeling those days are gone because each Premier League game is of such vital importance.
“But if he continues to impress us, as he is doing… he plays in that wide area where there is competition but maybe it’s competition he feels he can handle. Who knows? Perhaps he will do so well that we will decide that our best team in these last games is one with him in it.
“He has got to get in ahead of some players who we really do believe in and really do appreciate. So, if I were a betting man, which I am not, I wouldn’t bet on him getting that appearance before the end of the season unless it is coming on as a substitute.”
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