George Burley: I've worked with Wilfried Zaha and Gareth Bale – they are cut from the same cloth
Manager who gave youngster his first start at Palace predicts he will go on to make name in the Premier League like Spurs star
Wednesday 14 November 2012
You could see straight away that Wilfried Zaha had exceptional talent. When I took over at Crystal Palace in June 2010, they were still in administration with a very small squad and I needed young players to train with the first team. The academy coaches spoke highly of Wilfried so he joined in.
I liked the boy. He was quite a shy lad, but he was very comfortable on the ball and had the ability to take the ball to players and beat them.
You could see he was a natural. He was brought up playing football in the street and in the park. He was sharp and quick. He wasn't big – he was very wiry – but he had the ability to ride tackles, which is an attribute that not that many players have.
Our first game of the season was at home to Leicester and on his first senior start he scored and we won 3-2. I think he played every game when I was at Palace and I had no doubt he was going to be a top-class player.
I was fortunate enough to work with Tom Huddlestone at Derby County and with Gareth Bale at Southampton and, for me, the key to developing young talented players like that is to keep them playing regularly.
At Southampton, Gareth had two years playing non-stop in the first team when I was there and Wilfried has been the same at Palace.
The Championship's a great league for developing top young players in that way. Then, when they've got that bit of confidence to play against anybody, they can go into the top league and push on. Wilfried has been going along the right track.
I think Roy Hodgson has brought him into the England squad for experience: to see him first-hand, to watch him in training, to see what his mentality is like, dealing with top-class, experienced players.
It's a good idea to get Wilfried used to it all. He's maybe not ready to be pushed into the England team too early. Maybe he will play against Sweden; maybe not. The key for him is how he handles the whole experience of being with the England squad and how he kicks on.
I'm sure Hodgson will be keeping an eye on him to see how he pushes on. He's a great lad and a great talent but he's still got a lot to learn.
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