The Daily Telegraph - Business

Zaha rises above at­tack of wan­der­lust but Hodg­son re­mains un­cer­tain of star’s fu­ture

- By Jim White at Sel­hurst Park Sports · Soccer · Crystal Palace F.C. · Arsenal F.C. · Championship · Roy Hodgson · Selhurst Park · Wilfried Zaha · Andros Townsend

Things were very dif­fer­ent from the norm at Sel­hurst Park as the new sea­son got un­der way on Satur­day. In an empty sta­dium, there was no in­ces­sant noise from the Holmes­dale End ul­tras, no guard of hon­our pro­vided by en­thu­si­as­tic cheer­lead­ers, no ea­gle swoop­ing across the pitch be­fore kick-off.

But one thing was as it al­ways is in these parts, an un­chang­ing con­stant in trou­bled times: no one is sure whether Wil­fried Zaha will still be around when the trans­fer win­dow shuts. Crys­tal Palace’s best player re­mains in the grip of wan­der­lust, ap­par­ently de­ter­mined to move on. Even man­ager Roy Hodg­son is un­cer­tain of his star for­ward’s likely where­abouts come Oct 1.

“Ev­ery trans­fer win­dow I’ve been in­volved in Wil­fried has made noises about play­ing for a club where he can make a step up,” said Hodg­son, for whom the 1-0 vic­tory over Southamp­ton was a more than sat­is­fac­tory way to mark the third an­niver­sary of his ap­point­ment. “For any­thing to hap­pen, though, that club has to come and pay the mar­ket price. Un­til that hap­pens I’m happy to be work­ing with Wilf.”

Ru­mours have cir­cu­lated about in­ter­est from Arse­nal and Tot­ten­ham but no bid has emerged. Now, at 27, his chance of the big move he craves grows less likely with each pass­ing win­dow.

Which, given his con­tri­bu­tion to Palace’s vic­tory, is very good news for their fans. Against Southamp­ton he should have had a hat-trick: he scored one, smack­ing home a sump­tu­ous pass from An­dros Townsend, had an­other ruled out by the tight­est of off­side calls and ought to have scored a third when he fired into the side-net late on.

What was more telling than his strik­ing ef­forts, how­ever, was his work rate. His ev­ery chase, tackle and track-back did not sug­gest this was a player dis­tracted by the pos­si­bil­ity of a move.

Even more en­cour­ag­ingly for the Palace faith­ful, if he stays he will have the op­por­tu­nity to forge a part­ner­ship with sum­mer sign­ing Eberechi Eze. Two mer­cu­rial tal­ents to­gether, quick, in­tel­li­gent, imag­i­na­tive: it is some prospect.

Even in the brief 15 min­utes when Eze ar­rived from the bench there was hint of the link-up they could en­joy. “I’m ex­pect­ing him to kick on,” Hodg­son said of the new ar­rival. “He’s been a real star in the Cham­pi­onship. We weren’t the only club that looked at him. I’m ex­pect­ing him to work hard and con­tinue to progress.”

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