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Daily Star - - SERIOUSLY FOOTBALL -

®Êby ADRIAN KAJUMBA

BACK in Jan­uary, af­ter his hopes of a loan move had col­lapsed, Aaron Wan-Bis­saka was pre­par­ing to play for Crys­tal Palace’s Un­der-23s.

Now he is try­ing to get his head around be­ing hailed on Match of The Day and au­to­graph-hunt­ing young­sters turn­ing up on his doorstep.

Life has changed dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing 2018 for ris­ing Pre­mier League star­let Wan-Bis­saka.

He has al­ready been show­ered with praise by pun­dit Alan Shearer for his man-of-the-match per­for­mance in the 2-2 draw against Arse­nal last month.

Right-back Wan-Bis­saka, 20, said: “It is the sec­ond time that has hap­pened. It makes me feel proud.

“The first time was af­ter Ful­ham and the as­sist I got. I’ve never seen my­self on Match of the Day be­fore so it was good. When it hap­pens maybe once more I’ll be used to it, but I like to see it.”

The frenzy when lo­cal hero Wan-Bis­saka re­turns home has also taken some get­ting used to.

Knock­ing

He said: “I have my own place but can’t re­ally go to my par­ents’ house right now be­cause ev­ery time I do the kids on the field, when they see my car pull in, run straight to my house and keep knock­ing.

“Even if my dad [Am­brose] says, ‘He is sleep­ing’ they will wait for me un­til I leave. The first time I was con­fused. Like, ‘Wow, how do they know I’m here?’. At the same time it is good. I once looked up to some­one like that.”

Given his star­ring dis­plays, Wan-Bis­saka’s Palace fan club will be re­lieved the threat of him be­ing re­leased as a teenager came to noth­ing.

Speak­ing at a shoot for the adi­das Spec­tral Mode boot pack, Wan-Bis­saka said: “Around 14, 15, I was turn­ing up late, was lazy, wasn’t try­ing in train­ing, look­ing tired.

“I was just drift­ing away with the wrong friends and it was diet stuff too, af­ter school, chicken and chips, fizzy drinks.

“Ap­par­ently Palace were look­ing to re­lease me at 14. They didn’t tell me but my dad did and he sat me down and told me I have to fix up. The way he told me, he was se­ri­ous. It hit me. I felt his pain so the next sea­son I fixed up and from then I’ve just been shoot­ing up.”

Watch­ing Wan-Bis­saka since his break­through it is hard to be­lieve he is rel­a­tively new to the right-back po­si­tion.

He joined Palace aged 11 as a Thierry Henry-idol­is­ing striker and also played right wing com­ing through the ranks.

But one first-team train­ing ses­sion when he im­pressed against Wil­fried Zaha made those watch­ing sit up and take no­tice.

Wan-Bis­saka said: “He couldn’t re­ally get past me and they [play­ers and coaches] were say­ing things like, ‘Let him out of your pocket’ and stuff like that.

“I didn’t laugh, I had to hold it in.”

Wan-Bis­saka re­mem­bers one early right-back run-out for Palace’s Un­der-23s “not go­ing well”.

But he stuck with it, put in ex­tra work with coaches, stud­ied Brazil­ian right-back Dani Alves and fi­nally started to en­joy play­ing there, es­pe­cially the chance to still use his at­tack­ing qual­i­ties from a de­fen­sive po­si­tion. Boss Roy Hodg­son noted Wan-Bis­saka’s de­vel­op­ment too, which is why he kept hold of him when he asked to go out on loan in Jan­uary.

He then didn’t hes­i­tate to hand him his first-team de­but against Tot­ten­ham and equally-daunt­ing fol­low-up starts against Manch­ester United and Chelsea. Wan-Bis­saka hasn’t looked back since.

Palace’s cur­rent run brings him full cir­cle as he faces the same three sides he be­gun his se­nior ca­reer with back-to-back again – al­beit in a dif­fer­ent or­der – con­tin­u­ing with Spurs to­day.

The Eng­land Un­der-21 de­fender said: “I don’t re­ally think I was ready [to play at that level be­fore those three games] but I was ready to give it my all and show the man­ager I’ll give ev­ery­thing for him giv­ing me this chance.

“I feel more con­fi­dent go­ing into the games against them now. I’m look­ing for­ward to them.”

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Aaron Wan-Bis­saka wears the adi­das Ne­meziz boots, avail­able at https://www.adi­das.co.uk/foot­ball

WAY TO GO: Dani Alves was a role model for Wan-Bis­saka MAIN MAN: Wan-Bis­saka stops Granit Xhaka in his man-of-the-match dis­play against Arse­nal last month

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