BY SAM SMITH
Andros Townsend has admitted that Crystal Palace are fortunate to still have Wilfried Zaha after the Ivorian attempted to leave the Eagles during the summer.
Townsend also insisted that the 26-year-old’s love for playing football means his willingness to leave the South Londoners would never interfere with the effort he puts in while still wearing a Palace shirt.
It comes after there were doubts that Zaha would be fully committed to the Eagles having handed in a transfer request on Wednesday.
The forward was the subject of bids from Arsenal and Everton but a move never materialised.
Zaha played the final 25 minutes during Palace’s maiden game of the season – ironically against the Merseysiders – and played well, despite not appearing fully match fit after a very short pre-season.
“Wilf is a player who deserves to be playing at the very highest level,” said Townsend.
“Whether it’s the Premier League, Champions Leagues, World Cups, we’re just lucky that we have still got him for us. However long we have got him in our team, we’re thankful and we appreciate a player of his ability.
“Wilf loves his football, he loves Crystal Palace. You see on social media, he loves playing football. Whether it’s in his back garden, practicing with his dad or his cousin or his brother, he’s always playing football. There was no doubt that he was going to come here and put the effort in [against Everton], and for the rest of the season.
“Any side in the Premier League would be lucky to have a player like Wilf in their team. The fact that the we have managed to keep him is great for the club and gave everyone a big boost once the window closed.
“He’s been the same ever since I’ve been here. He’s been the difference for us, whether it’s avoiding relegation or fighting for top 10.
“He’s always been the difference for us and you saw when he came on that he gave us an extra dimension. He’s a massively important player for us and any team in the Premier League would be lucky to have a player of his ability.”
There was some suggestion before the goalless opening-day draw with the Toffees that Zaha would receive a backlash from Palace fans for handing in a transfer request on the eve of the transfer deadline.
However, Townsend believed the extremely positive reception that the former Manchester United man received was never in doubt.
“The fans know what Wilf’s done for this football club,” said Townsend. “There was no doubt once the window did close that they would get behind him, you heard the roar he got not only before the game but when he came on.
“They appreciate a player like Wilf.
“Hopefully he can give them more to cheer about from now until the end of the season.
“If you know Wilf on a day-to-day basis, he’s not one to throw his toys out the pram and let it show. Once he gets on the field, he’s professional. He loves his football, he wants to score goals, he wants to get assists, he wants to run around, he wants to tackle, and that’s Wilf. I’m sure we’ll get that Wilf whenever he steps onto the field this season.”