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Crystal Palace

Connor Wickham closes in on return to action, can he repeat his 2014 relegation heroics?

The Crystal Palace striker has not played since November 2016.

Mathew Nash

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Wickham
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace’s under-23s picked up a good win yesterday, defeating Charlton Athletic 3-2. The result moved Palace closer to winning their respective under-23 league and it was also good to see a returning first-team player on the scoresheet, as this Instagram post showed:

Palace striker Connor Wickham is clearly closing in on a return to first-team action. The 24-year-old has not played since November 2016, when he suffered a sickening looking injury in the 5-4 loss to Swansea City.

The striker had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and his recovery has taken longer than first expected. But it seems Wickham might be able to play a part in Palace’s final fight for Premier League survival. For Palace, they might not have a better option available to them.

Wickham has experience of such a fight. The striker was something of a forgotten man at Sunderland back in 2014. However, with Sunderland staring relegation in the face, Gustavo Poyet threw Wickham into the Sunderland set-up after an unsuccessful loan spell at Leeds United.

It proved an inspired decision. Wickham was fantastic toward the end of the season. Two goals against Manchester City earned Sunderland a valuable draw. A goal at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea earned a rare home reverse against the Blues. He then bagged a double versus relegation rivals Cardiff City as Sunderland survived.

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Palace are currently 16th in the Premier League table but the two teams below them, West Ham and Southampton, have a game in hand. With just seven games remaining the Eagles are set to be in a fight for survival until the final kick of a ball this season.

Wickham will undoubtedly hope to play a part in those final games of the campaign. If he does Palace fans will hope that Wickham can find the form he discovered in 2014 that inspired Sunderland to what had looked an unlikely survival.

Sports journalist based in Bristol. Previously spent five years writing for HITC Sport. Everton fan for my sins.

Crystal Palace

The media obsession with Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha should be ignored

The winger is being heavily linked with a move away from Selhurst Park.

Max Cohen

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Wilfried Zaha
Photo: Getty Images

Ask any Crystal Palace fan their least favourite part of the summer, and one answer will stand out: the endless media obsession about the future of Wilfried Zaha.

After further reports in The Times, Mirror, and The Sun linking the Ivory Coast international with a move away from Selhurst Park, Palace supporters should tune out the noise and focus on the facts of the matter.

Zaha is currently under contract at Selhurst Park, having signed a five-year deal just over a year ago. Despite the rumoured interest from the likes of Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, and Borussia Dortmund, Crystal Palace hold all the cards in the situation.

And, to add to their strong position, manager Roy Hodgson has made it very clear he has no intention of selling the winger when speaking to football.london last week:

“What people seem to forget with Wilf is he has got a four-year contract. There is speculation every year around Messi and Ronaldo too. He is our player for the next four years and the club has got no interest or desire to sell him.”

(during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park on May 13, 2018 in London, England.

This strong statement from the Palace manager is the only thing that holds significance with regards to the Zaha saga. At the end of the day, there can be as much speculation and interest from clubs as possible, but if the club is not willing to sell then the player will stay put.

Additionally, the reports that Zaha is unsettled at Palace seem like nothing more than sensational claims. This is a player who expressed his love for the fans and the club as recently as April, talking to the Eagles’ official website after a win against Brighton.

“Crystal Palace is my home town and the support we have here is genuine support with families watching with their kids loving us as players so I don’t really see myself anywhere else.”

In all, one must focus on what is relevant in the Wilfried Zaha transfer saga: the actual words of the figures involved.

With Zaha expressing his happiness and Hodgson making it clear no sale is forthcoming, the media obsession over the winger’s Selhurst Park exit appears unfounded.

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Crystal Palace

Khouma Babacar would be underwhelming solution to Crystal Palace’s striker problem

The 25-year-old isn’t exactly a prolific goalscorer.

Max Cohen

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Babacar
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Mirror, Crystal Palace are close to completing a £12 million move for Sassuolo striker Khouma Babacar.

The Senegalese forward scored just six goals in the league last season and would represent an underwhelming solution to Crystal Palace’s striker problem.

Last season, the Eagles struggled massively for goals, with only central midfielder Luka Milivojevic reaching double figures in the league. As for strikers, Christian Benteke scored just three goals in a hugely disappointing year, and Alexander Sorloth failed to score in his four appearances.

It is clear the south Londoners desperately need a prolific centre-forward in order to succeed in 2018/19, yet Babacar simply is not the right choice.

(Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)

At 25 years of age, he has already been around Italian football for a long time, making his debut for Fiorentina in 2009 as a 16-year-old. Yet he struggled to nail down a starting spot and spent time on loan in Serie B and La Liga before enjoying a breakout season for Fiorentina 2016/17.

In that year, he banged in 10 goals in 22 league appearances while also netting four times in the Europa League. Yet disappointingly, he scored just four times in the first half of 2017/18, before being shipped off to Sassuolo on loan where he found the net on just two occasions in 13 appearances.

Far from an outstanding goalscorer in Italy, it is unclear where Babacar would fit in at Palace, and it is unlikely he could turn around the fortunes of the club’s struggling strike force.

Roy Hodgson would do well to pass on the signing of the £12 million Senegalese international and focus his efforts on a more proven striker with a better goal record.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace fans should praise Roy Hodgson’s defiant Andros Townsend comments

The winger has been attracting interest from Premier League rivals.

Max Cohen

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Andros Townsend
Photo: Getty Images

In early July, Sky Sports reported Newcastle United were in talks with Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend over a return to St. James’ Park.

Yet, Roy Hodgson’s defiant comments have quashed those rumours and will be greeted by Palace fans as a strong signal to other clubs who have aimed to buy the Eagles’ best players.

Speaking in a press conference (h/t football.london) over the weekend, the Palace manager made it clear he had no intention of selling his key squad members.

“[Townsend] has got three years on his contract, and we have no interest at all in selling Andros Townsend. We are not a selling club at the moment, far from it.

“We are working very hard to keep the players we have got, and players of big importance, and Zaha and Townsend are right up there as players we want to keep.”

(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Hodgson deserves praise for this strong stance, as he is sending a clear signal to rival clubs who aim to pinch settled players.

Townsend was crucial to the club’s resurgence last season under Roy Hodgson, and after Bakary Sako’s departure, the need to hold on to attackers is even more important.

By rebutting the advances of Newcastle and clubs interested in Wilfried Zaha, Hodgson not only boosts the confidence of the fans, but also the Palace players.

Knowing that your club aims to hold on to your fellow teammates means the side will be better and more exciting to play for.

Hodgson has already saved Crystal Palace from relegation, and now his stewardship can lead the club to the top half of the Premier League by keeping hold of the Eagles’ star performers.

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