Another Crystal Palace Academy Product Flies The Nest

Crystal Palace FC announced the sale of forward Sean Scannell to Huddersfield Town last Friday, for an undisclosed fee.

This was followed by an amazing out pouring of grief from Palace fans across the various social media platforms and fan sites, especially on twitter.

Palace fans have always had great affection for their academy products and Scannell was no exception. Many fans have expressed surprise at his departure, but I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I wouldn’t have been shocked to see him move on this summer in search of regular first team football, particularly if this gave him the opportunity to play in his favoured central striker position.

Scannell’s been in and around the Palace first team since breaking into the side in 2007 as a fresh faced 17 year old. He’s always had a lot of promise, with his main attributes being pace and his dribbling skills. He hasn’t quite got the skills and frills of say, Wilfred Zaha or Victor Moses, but is perhaps a more direct player with a touch of flair in him when needed.

When he gets into the 6 yard box he can be dangerous with both feet and his head, and he does have a shot on him.  Unsurprisingly when he first played for Palace he lacked the upper strength to play as straight out number 9, and tended to be deployed as a wide player, but he has actually bulked up over the last couple of season;  whether this has been a specific weights regime or the natural growth of a young man, I’m not sure, probably a touch of both. It is this adaptability to play wide that has hindered Scannell’s opportunities to play as striker.

Successive managers in Warnock, Burley and Freedman have rarely played with two up top, setting up for more conservatives formations, usually variations on 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, and Scannell has more often than not taken one of the wide attacking positions in the side. He does not really have the attributes to play as the lone forward in these formations, and at 5ft 9in doesn’t fit into the target man mould. The likes of Victor Moses, Wilfred Zaha and Freddie Sears have suffered a similar fate to a greater or lesser extent that Scannell has.

In the modern era, it is fairly difficult for a young ‘little’ man to play as a striker, without the back up of a big number 9. The difference between players like Moses and Zaha, and Scannell, is that Moses and Zaha started scoring goals in the Championship. Zaha (9 goals in 92 appearances) Moses (for Palace 11 goals in 58 appearances) compare favourably to the older Scannell who notched 13 in 141 appearances.

In fact both Zaha and Moses came into the Palace team after Scannell, but have gone onto be bigger stars in their own right already. This is probably what epitomises Scannell – he has promised so much, but not delivered on those promises. I really thought the season just gone would be the ‘big one’ for Sean, but it never really happened.

I was at London Road on the opening day of the season to seem him partnered in a classic 4-4-2 with new signing Glenn Murray, and despite the 2-1 defeat by Peterborough, it was Scannell that scored the goal. He scored again 10 days later at home to Coventry, but then the goals started to slow down and he only scored 4 all season despite 26 starts.

It seems a long time now since 2008 when he won Palace’s Young Player of the Year award, and Championship Apprentice of the Year in 2008/9. He’s even been capped at every age level from U17 to U21 for the Republic Ireland, culminating in a cap for the senior B team in 2008. But that was 4 years ago, and despite being asked to train with the senior A side a few years back, international recognition has not been so forthcoming of late.

It is difficult to say for sure what has hindered Scannell’s progress, but I’m sure the lack of opportunities as striker is one, and perhaps the emergence of Moses and Zaha another. He has also been a bit unlucky with injuries over the years. It also emerged a year or two ago that he had a baby which must be a distraction for someone so young. Scannell is still only 21, and still has the opportunity to define his own destiny. He has bags of talent, but at some stage he will need to realise it to take himself to the next level.

Perhaps a move to Huddersfield and the opportunity to play as a striker will help him kick on. I had wondered whether an opportunity to go out on loan at League One level might have helped his confidence to come back to Palace a better forward player.

Sadly, he has been sold on a permanent move, although I’m pleased he has the opportunity to continue playing in the Championship.

It emerged earlier in the season that Scannell had claimed to Freedman that previous regimes had not coached him as a striker, and Freedman also alluded that some players had perhaps ‘let him down’. Whether or not Scannell falls into this category is not wholly clear at this time. It will be interesting to find out when the dust settles, whether Scannell sought a move in order to gain first team football, or whether Freedman decided it was time to move him on.

Hopefully by the end of the summer it will be clear when the funds from Scannell’s sale will be used, with a range of rumours about potential strikers already doing the rounds. What is certain is that Scannell will get a good reception when he returns to Selhurst on December 22, that will be a nice Christmas present.

He has always been a popular player amongst the Palace fans, if we gloss over the distasteful episode in his first couple of seasons when a minority of fans lambasted the 17 year old for failing to clap the fans when substituted. All fairly ridiculous, but shows that not all the morons in south London live close to the river.

If you want to follow his progress at Huddersfield, follow him on Twitter (@BigScanz) or check out the Hudderfield blogs on FootballFanCast: