Crystal Palace will be hoping their academy’s new Category 1 status will propel them into a prosperous new era, and they might not have to wait too long to bear the fruits of their labour.
Striker David Omilabu has scored an abundance of goals at every level he’s played at for the Eagles after joining the club aged eight.
Although the youngster was released by Palace at 12, he moved across London to local rivals Fulham, before hitting a hat-trick against his former side, prompting them to re-sign him.
Since then, Omilabu hasn’t looked back. He has scored 26 times at U23 and U18 level and capped off a remarkable 2020/21 campaign – where he bagged an incredible 24 goals in 24 appearances – by scoring the decisive spot-kick as the south London outfit beat Sunderland 5-3 on penalties in the Premier League 2 Division 2 playoff final.
The now 19-year-old caught the eye of several impressed onlookers last term, including Palace podcaster HLTCO, who tweeted his appreciation back in February.
He wrote: “David Omilabu: Age: 18 Final Schoolboy season: 41 goals + 23 assists in 26 games U18s this season: 10 goals in 11 games U23s this season: 1 goal in 2 games. Remember the name.”
After scoring the winning penalty for Shaun Derry’s charges, Omilabu was handed his first professional contract by his boyhood club.
His show of faith to the Selhurst Park side pleased the club’s hierarchy, and chairman Steve Parish was quick to laud the 19-year-old after he put pen to paper on a long-term deal.
“It’s fantastic to see those who were amongst the first players recruited at age eight or nine when I arrived now graduate to the full professional ranks. David is a player that has stood out on many occasions – not least when we played in overseas tournaments,” Parish said.
“He has fantastic qualities and I sincerely hope that David uses this achievement of signing as a professional to motivate himself even further to make the most of his talents, by keeping his head down and working harder than ever to help accelerate his development at Crystal Palace.”
Although the youngster has had a relatively slow start to the current campaign by his exceptional standards, recording two goals and three assists in 12 outings, the future looks bright for Omilabu.
With Christian Benteke and Jordan Ayew approaching the twilight zone of their careers, Omilabu could save Palace millions in the years to come, as Vieira potentially looks towards the academy, rather than the transfer market for additional bodies. Evidently, the club’s supporters have every reason to be excited about this young talent.