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Exclusive: Crystal Palace full-back on ‘panic’ after heart issue flagged and gaining regular game time on loan at Bromley

Crystal Palace’s Reece Hannam hopes his loan move to Bromley will allow him to get back to playing his best football after a frustrating last campaign.

The 21-year-old full-back, who joined the Eagles as a free agent in September 2020 after being released by West Ham United, has started every game in the National League so far under Andy Woodman.

Hannam scored his first goal in professional football last weekend in Bromley’s 1-0 win away to Aldershot Town, when he ventured forward and struck a right-footed shot under the body of goalkeeper Luca Ashby-Hammond.

Hannam told the South London Press: “As soon as the goal went in, I felt a lot less under pressure – it felt like a weight off my shoulders. Now I feel more comfortable – I can relax and play my best football. I know that the expectations that I put on myself are paying off.

“We’re in a winning mentality now – we have won two on the bounce – so we’re just looking forward to getting as many wins as possible to kick on with the season and gain promotion.

“It’s a lot more difficult when you’re in a men’s league and you’re fighting for three points.

“It’s much tougher when both teams are really going at it, and tackles are flying in. But it’s so much better when you come away from the game knowing that the hard work has paid off.

“I felt as though I needed to step out and get some experience in the men’s game, as it can only better me and be beneficial for my career.”

Crystal Palace’s Reece Hannam warming up prior to kick-off during the Premier League match at Goodison Park, Liverpool. Issue date: Monday April 5, 2021.

During his first season with Palace – after signing a short-term deal with the club – Hannam won the Player of the Season awarded for Sean Derry’s U23 team, as they gained promotion to the Premier League 2 Division 1.

The left-back was promoted to train with Roy Hodgson’s first-team squad. He was named on the bench in the Premier League on five occasions and topped it off by signing a new three-year extension with Palace.

“My time in the first team with Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington was probably the best time where I developed my football,” explained Hannam.

“Roy and Ray have been in the game for so many years, and the amount of knowledge that they have of football helped me a lot.

“Every day in training, they would help me, especially with tactics and showing me what to do in certain situations.

“I like to base my game on aggression, but they taught me how to defend and the right way to do it, whether that be how to tackle properly or how to come up against big players.

“It was a real high for me [being involved with the first team] – it was a dream come true. I didn’t get to play any minutes, but being on the bench was enough for me to appreciate how much I had come in that year.

“I was released from West Ham, so there was always the thought in the back of my head that I have a lot of people to prove wrong now. At the same time, though, I had to prove Palace right for putting their faith in me.”

After being involved with Patrick Vieira’s group during pre-season, playing in games against Ipswich and Walsall in the build-up to the new campaign, Hannam was named on the bench for the first Premier League game of the 2021-22 season at Chelsea.

But then he suffered a groin tear that sidelined him away from first-team and U23 action. As Hannam neared a return, he developed pericarditis around his heart and was forced to take a further break away from the sport.

“It was tough,” said Hannam of suffering an inflammation of his pericardium, a sac which covers the outer surface of the heart.

“I couldn’t exercise for a while, and I didn’t really end up getting back to playing football until around April. By that time, the season had pretty much finished – it was a wasted season that had gone by.

“It was frustrating because I was coming off the back of a very good season. The next season came by, and it just wasn’t what I expected in terms of genuinely playing football and playing my best football.

“It was a panic initially, but I saw all the specialists, and they said that there were no long-term problems, which was a relief to hear. Ever since then, I have just been focused on getting back and getting minutes.

“It was difficult to accept, but you can’t look back. I have come to Bromley, I’m playing football, and I’m playing well – I just have to build on it.”

Picture: Dylan Clinton Photography

Under former Palace and Newcastle goalkeeping coach Woodman, Bromley made history last season when they beat big-spenders Wrexham 1-0 at Wembley to lift the FA Trophy for the first time.

Although promotion slipped away from them towards the second half of the season, Hannam wants to help create more Bromley folklore by helping to get the club to the EFL for the first time.

“We need to be focused on getting promotion this season,” he said. “I feel that it is more than possible for us.

“We have a great group of boys and an exciting team. Anything less than [reaching] the play-offs would be less than we expect of ourselves, because I really believe that we can get promotion this season into the league.

“As soon as I met Woody and Dunny [assistant manager Alan Dunne], I realised that they were good, genuine guys, and I thought: ‘This is the place where I want to be and the best decision for me at this moment in time to improve my career.’

“My goal [this season] is to put myself out there and get myself back to when I was playing my best football.”


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