BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
With mathematical safety in the Premier League guaranteed for this season, Crystal Palace can start looking forward to the remaining few games without pressure at a time of the season in which some clubs promote academy players to the first team, gaining experience to take into the following campaign.
But for Palace boss Roy Hodgson, the final games of the season are an important opportunity to reward fringe first team players with a chance to get some valuable playing minutes under their belts.
“I don’t think, at the moment, it would be right to replace them,” Hodgson told South London Press when asked about the prospects of some academy players making the first-team squad in the final league games.
“The [first team] guys [on the bench] have been working hard themselves and been waiting for a chance to get on the field to show what they can do, so to not only remove them from the team as substitutes, but also from substitutes bench – I don’t think that would be the right thing to do.”
With Premier League stars Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka the shining lights of the Crystal Palace academy, Hodgson was quick to point out that the younger players get plenty of first team experience and form a crucial part of the success of the club.
“To be honest we bring the academy players into training as much as we can,” explained Hodgson. “That’s been happening a lot more recently with the injuries we’ve had but then one of them who was training with us on a regular basis, Sam Woods (pictured), himself got injured which was a real blow.
“Luke Dreher has also moved up to train with us all the time, but at the moment he is suffering from a minor hamstring injury,but it’s ruled him out of the [Everton] game, although I think he will be fit on Monday.
“Sam’s been replaced by Nikola Tavares who is training with us now, but we often have academy players present at training, guys like Tyrick Mitchell, Kian Flanagan, Gio McGregor and James Daly.”