Crystal PalaceSport

Opinion: ‘What next for David Ozoh with Oliver Glasner’s Crystal Palace appointment?’


To the outside world, Crystal Palace have been granted a fresh start. While that may be true on a broader first-team level, underlying academy pathway issues remain.

If any player embodies this struggle, it is David Ozoh. An 18-year-old midfielder with a smattering of Premier League cameos and appearances, he is currently the best prospect the academy has had to offer “the other side of the road” at Copers Cope.

On the surface, it’s easy to understand why. In a physical sense, where other young players may be lacking or need development, Ozoh has already reached a place where he can handle physicality in the top two levels of English football.

His technical or mental abilities are also nearer the desired standards than expected, based on his limited exposure to the Premier League, and his extended appearance against Manchester City showed little fear in a hard-fought match against an elite opposition.

A young central midfielder has joined the squad for two successive January transfer windows. Whilst neither is the exact profile of Ozoh, they symbolise the competition he will face to make it at the club.

Despite carrying the accolade of being Palace’s youngest Premier League debutant, time has moved on quickly. Two managerial changes have been made since, and Ozoh has only played the equivalent of 1.5 matches over nine substitute appearances.

As the new acquisition in midfield, Adam Wharton offers a comparison to Ozoh in terms of development curves. After all, Wharton is only 14 months his senior but arrived in the Premier League with 44 appearances in the Championship before turning 20.

Ozoh, for all his promise and extended training time with a top-flight squad, doesn’t have the minutes to aid his development in that fashion, leaving a broader issue for the club – bridging the gap and taking a promising scholar aged 16 to the first team.

There is a quick path for the brightest talents to progress into the U21 team, should the club create space for them to do so, but this is often where the ceiling is met.

There is the loan option next season to make up for that lack of game time. Yet, for a player with the adjudged potential of David Ozoh, any loan move beneath the Championship could be considered a wasted season for stretching and testing him if the destination is ultimately the Premier League.

In turn, asking a player of his age to move and get guaranteed time as a first-team player at the Championship is still a tough ask, and Palace would cede any control to another manager, which only adds further volatility. Plymouth did show interest this January, as reported by our paper, but the club opted to retain him.

That conundrum may leave one option: prioritising getting Ozoh minutes in the current first team wherever possible. It’s an open question as to how Oliver Glasner will approach this, compared to previous staff. However, philosophically and financially, developing academy players to fill positions in the squad is vitally important for sustainability.

Only two academy players have debuted and seen real exposure to the Premier League in the past eleven seasons, Tyrick Mitchell and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. That either pre-supposes they were the only two talents capable of reaching the standard at that time or the only players afforded the time to adjust and develop.

With 12 matches remaining in the season, there are many plates for the new manager to spin. David Ozoh’s future is just one of them, but not something that can wait until next season.


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