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‘Very talented’ – Crystal Palace boss praises former Derby County winger who is yet to make first Premier League start

BY ANDREW MCSTEEN

After joining the Eagles in July 2021 as an 18-year-old, Malcolm Ebiowei has found it hard to cement a place in the Crystal Palace first-team squad, firstly under Patrick Vieira and now under Roy Hodgson.

The former Derby County forward made his Crystal Palace debut at home to Arsenal in their Premier League opener last season, but struggled soon after, managing just two league and two EFL cup appearances before being loaned out to Hull City for the remainder of the season.

This season Ebiowei has not featured in the first team on the pitch in either the league or cup but was in the squad for a run of five games as an unused substitute, starting with Aston Villa away on 16 September and running up until Nottingham Forest at home (7 October).

For the next five games, he did not make the long list, but with a mixture of injuries to key players and form for the younger age teams, he was reinstated to the bench for the draw at West Ham on Sunday.

“He’s talented, very talented – there’s no doubt about that,” said Roy Hodgson.

“He’s got a lot of natural ability and he’s concentrating hard on his game. He’s trying to work hard to improve areas of his game which he’s always realised he needs some help with. The coaching that we do on a daily basis is something which he relishes, enjoys and is trying to take full advantage of.”

Despite the impression Ebiowei is making at the Beckenham training ground, Hodgson revealed he still needs some convincing to hand the forward a player a place on the first-team pitch.

“He still remains an unknown quantity for us at this (Premier League) level,” explained the 76-year-old.

“He’s played a couple of games in U23s, which I’ve watched, as have (Naouirou) Ahamada and (Matheus) Franca, and they’ve done okay, but the point is, there’s a vast difference between playing in those matches and playing in the first team, which is of vital importance, where every mistake you make could be a mistake which is unbelievably costly for your team.

“The jeopardy of playing as a young player in the Premier League is very, very high because you don’t have a past background that you can rely on,” he added. “(If a player says) ‘you’re right, I messed up, I didn’t do what I should do, but what about the previous 250 games I played?’, they don’t have that.

“The jeopardy for them is greater than for an experienced player and that’s why, as a coach, [you] tend to want to be a little bit careful throwing them in, in case the jeopardy damages them rather than helps them.”

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