From age 13 to 18, Wilfried Zaha played his soccer near home with south London squad Crystal Palace, but he didn’t just stop there.
The Ivorian winger went on to feature in Palace’s first team for the ensuing three years, amassing 110 appearances and 12 goals prior to drawing interest from, and signing with, Premier League giant Manchester United.
His spell at Old Trafford ended quickly, and, following two loans to Palace within the span of two years, it became logical that Alan Pardew would welcome back the 22-year-old on a permanent basis.
Zaha inked a five-and-a-half-year contract with the Eagles earlier in the month, and has started the last five games. Pardew has watched his side win six, as Zaha started to find his groove back home.
The ex-Red Devil spoke to Sky Sports about his downturn at United, previous transfer aims and his newfound chance for revitalization.
“If you’re not playing, it’s just, ‘what am I doing?’ Not playing at all hit my confidence but now I am playing again,” Zaha said.
“There were other clubs interested but in my mind I wanted to come back to Palace. It is somewhere I like and it’s definitely the club I want to be at.
“I am back home. Everything is local to me, my family my friends. I just play football and go home with a smile on my face.”
Zaha has a superb opportunity at his hands with his exit to Selhurst Park. He was the center of attention years ago, a fan favorite, and this admiration from supporters has not diminished. Hometown familiarity and his elevated star status will have Zaha, as he said, going to work “with a smile on his face.” That attitude can surely help rejuvenate his level of play.