BY SAM SMITH
Kyle de Silva admitted he realised a boyhood dream when he made his Crystal Palace debut in an FA Cup tie against Derby County in January 2012.
The Eagles academy graduate, now 24, will line up against his former club for the first time when his new side Bromley host a Palace XI on Tuesday – and De Silva still holds fond memories of his time at Selhurst Park.
He said: “I had a great time at Palace. I supported the club growing up and had a season ticket. It was a dream come true for me to eventually go on to play for the first team.
“Obviously the club has progressed since I’ve left and I’m delighted for them, I still look out for the results every week and still have a few friends there.”
De Silva made his Palace debut during a productive period for the club’s academy. The midfielder was part of the same youth side as Jonny Williams and progressed to a senior team that already possessed the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Sean Scannell and Nathaniel Clyne.
There were six academy players in the 16-man matchday squad when De Silva made his first league start in a 2-0 defeat against Southampton in April 2012. De Silva started alongside Zaha, Scannell, Clyne and Matt Parsons while teenage centre-back Ryan Inniss – who has travelled with Roy Hodgson’s first team to Scandinavia following a succession of loan spells – remained an unused substitute.
A poster featuring De Silva alongside Williams, Zaha and Stuart O’Keefe appeared around South London in 2013 with the words ‘see the stars of tomorrow, today’ and encouraged supporters to go to Selhurst Park to see the next generation of academy talent in the first team. But his departure in 2015 after just 10 appearances – along with the club’s promotion and the pressures of successive relegation battles – led to a barren spell for the academy.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka finally broke his six-year record of being the last league debutant from the academy when the right-back appeared against Tottenham in February this year, but De Silva is adamant the club has made progress.
“Things didn’t work out for me at Palace but I’m delighted at where they are.
“They have done wonders. They have really kicked on since I was there and good luck to them. The club has cemented itself in the Premier League and long may that continue.”
De Silva moved to FC Eindhoven for regular first team football via a frustrating year at Notts County, and feels that the football in the Netherlands is much more technically demanding than that which he had experienced in England.
“I was playing in the second tier in the Dutch league. I was there for two years and it was a great experience for me and my family. I had a really good time over there.
“The football is a lot more different over there than it is here. On the technical side it’s much tougher but physically not so demanding. But I know coming back over to England it’s going to be a lot tougher both mentally and physically. That’s something that I’m fully aware of though so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
De Silva was speaking following Bromley’s 5-1 friendly defeat against Gillingham on Tuesday, a game in which former Palace under-18 winger Elliott List scored for the League One side. Despite his success at Eindhoven, the Croydon-born midfielder is looking forward to playing in England again having signed for the Ravens last month.
“I’ve known the gaffer (Neil Smith) for a while, so as soon as I knew I was leaving the Netherlands I got in contact with him. He asked me if I could come in and I was delighted that he allowed me to sign for Bromley. We’re disappointed with the result [against Gillingham] but right now the main thing is the team improving their fitness.”