BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Fresh from winning the Player of the Season, PFA Male Community Champion and Players’ Player of the Season awards at the annual Crystal Palace FC Awards ceremony held at Boxpark, Croydon on Tuesday night, Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka revealed he is already planning for next season – with the Eagles.
“I would like to add goals and rack up more assists than I have this season,” said the 21-year-old. “I will get that by getting forward more, but obviously, at first, I have got to think about defending, but [I want to be [more of a threat] going forward, make more tackles and it would also be good to get a goal before the season ends.”
Despite extending his contract in April 2018, tying him to the side from SE25 until June 2022, with the Premier League transfer window set to open in just under two weeks transfer rumours have persisted about the England U21 Palace academy player.
But the Croydon-born Wan-Bissaka wants to focus on the Eagles, improving his game under manager Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff.
“The situation just shows that my performances haven’t gone unnoticed,” said Wan-Bissaka about the rumours. “But I am with Crystal Palace at the moment, that is where my contract is and that is where I will be next season. I have got three years left on my contract. It says I am going to be there, so that is all I can focus on now.
“Even before I started playing they (Roy Hodgson and his coaching staff) helped me and got me into the team. The dream was to perform well and stand out [this season] and to see that I have makes me feel proud, but at the same time it makes me hungrier for next season.”
Hodgson handed over the top award to the youngster and praised his efforts since he has been at the club.
“He’s been outstanding from the moment we thrust him into the limelight,” said the Palace manager. “He had a baptism of fire I remember well over a year ago now, playing three of the top six teams in his first four games and replacing another star of the team who’s done great service – Joel Ward – who got injured.
“But Aaron got his chance and since that moment he’s been so good in all of the games. It’s not just the defending, he’s also been very composed on the ball going forward, he’s been a complete fullback as far as I’m concerned and I’m very glad we have him.”
His PFA Community Champion award highlighted giving back to his community, which included a recent return to his primary school in New Addington.
The visit made Wan-Bissaka look back on how far he has come, his ties to the community and his current position.
“A bit of both,” said Wan-Bissaka to the South London Press when asked if he could believe his journey so far or if he just takes it each day as it comes. “When I come here [to Croydon] I see people that I see about [normally], as I am from this area, so it is good to see them. They see me as a role model or as a player that they support.
“To look at where I’ve come from and to look at myself now; it’s a good feeling,” he added. “It was a good feeling [going back to school] especially, to see some familiar faces who have especially helped me in the past.
“I’m grateful and can’t thank them (Hodgson and his coaches) enough for them to give me the opportunity to play as many games as I have this season and to show that what I’m capable of doing, but it’s a real honour and it makes me feel proud to come away with three awards. I really didn’t expect it but I’m happy.
“It means a lot [to win the Player’s Player of the Season award] because I know they want the best for me and that’s what I always try to give. I have been in that changing room and around the boys for a few years now, so the banter is all fun and we are all just happy boys. It is always a laugh playing with and against each other, on and off the field – it is good.”
With two games left of the season for Palace and possible inclusion in the England squad for the UEFA U21 European Championship in June, there is still a lot of football to play for the right-back, but he is looking forward to a break and has a promise for Palace fans.
“A holiday is always needed, to put your feet up, to rest,” he told the South London Press. “Then I can come back next season fitter and stronger.”