Daniel Sturridge urges Wilfried Zaha to stay at Crystal Palace
For England new-boy Wilfried Zaha, who is desired by the best clubs in the country, temptation may be difficult to resist. He may find it difficult to select the best career choices.
It is likely that Zaha will be one of the most coveted players in Britain when the transfer window opens in January. Zaha’s first call-up to the full England squad, for tomorrow’s friendly in Sweden, illustrates the impact he has made this season for Crystal Palace, where his performances have attracted the attention of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Palace are determined to keep Zaha at least until the summer but should he join a top-flight club in January, he might not play as often as he does for his present employers.
His new England squad colleague, Daniel Sturridge, left Manchester City — before Sheikh Mansour’s billions had helped the club end a 35-year trophy drought — for Chelsea as a 19-year-old in July 2009 but has made only 48 first-team starts for the Blues. He now believes all young players must think carefully before turning their backs on regular first-team football.
Palace’s former manager Dougie Freedman, who has since joined Bolton, also offered the view last month that Zaha was not yet ready to make the move to the Premier League and Sturridge knows that acting hastily can have damaging consequences.
“It’s hugely important,” said Sturridge, who hopes to win his fourth full cap in Stockholm.
“If people are considering leaving a club at a very young age, I’d suggest to them not to do that and to play as much football as they can.
“It’s key to your development and playing under those circumstances helps you to become a better footballer. The more first-team games you play, the better you’re equipped to play every week when you do go to a bigger club.
“You do get offers, and the best kids have a lot of money offered to them, but the only thing that matters is to play football. The money will come at some stage, whether that is earlier or later. You need to focus on football and not worry about anything else.”
Sturridge was, nevertheless, hugely impressed with Zaha during his first training session with the senior squad yesterday. His reputation is growing so quickly that both England and Ivory Coast, where he was born, are fighting for his services.
Even if Zaha plays tomorrow, he could still switch allegiance as this is not a competitive fixture. Sturridge is keen for the 20-year-old to stick to his adopted country as England try to develop a playing style capable of threatening the world’s best teams.
Roy Hodgson’s side have been solid rather than spectacular during his six-month tenure but, at Chelsea, Sturridge has witnessed a quick transformation from defensive to attacking football and knows it can be achieved.
Although the 23-year-old has yet to start a Premier League game this season, he has still enjoyed the switch to a more positive approach.
“For the sides who win games in modern football, it’s more about being an attacking team than a defensive one nowadays,” he told Standard Sport.
“There are only a few teams who you could say have been successful from being defensive.
“It’s about playing good football, exciting the fans and giving them what they want, which are goals, skills, enjoyment. When fans leave the ground, you want them to think they have got their money’s worth. It’s expensive to watch football these days, so they want to see something.
“I’ve enjoyed adapting to the new methods at Chelsea. It’s great to have players roaming free and to be able to go out there and express ourselves.
“The way we’re playing now is a lot more attack minded and it’s great to be a part of it. The important thing is to make the supporters happy and for them to leave the stadium with a smile on their faces.
“Whichever system the manager chooses, we will fit into it. If it’s one up front, two or three, he sets the criteria but we have players in this squad who can adapt.”
Sturridge is one of only three forwards remaining in Hodgson’s squad for the Sweden game following withdrawals through injury and he is keen to stake a claim for the position.
He added: “The manager has made it clear players don’t have to start all the time for their clubs to play for England, so I believe I can still be a regular even if I’m not always playing for Chelsea.”
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