It’s an exciting time to be a Crystal Palace supporter, with their new era under the stewardship of Patrick Vieira’s getting off to an entertaining start.
Several new, young signings replaced multiple experienced campaigners over the summer to mark a new chapter in the club’s history, and things could get even better for the south London outfit in the seasons ahead.
Just last year, Palace secured Category One status after the redevelopment of the club’s youth academy, transforming their youth sides fortunes. And it could prove to be pivotal for their future prospects.
In the past, the likes of Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Emile Smith Rowe have grown up within close proximity to Selhurst Park but plied their trade elsewhere as the Eagles’ facilities were not at an elite standard.
But U18s coach Paddy McCarthy told the PA news agency (as relayed by F365) that the recent developments will be enough to entice talented locals to play for Palace in the future: “We have a great recruitment area in south-east London and within the M25. It is a hotbed of talent!
“And we now have a facility which is in the process of being up there with the best, a games programme in line with the best and we also have a pathway I would argue is probably better than others when you look at our history of getting players from the academy all the way through to the first-team,” McCarthy concluded.
One of the youngsters already benefitting from the improved infrastructure is 20-year-old Jake O’Brien.
Although the stocky Irish defender isn’t a native to south London, Palace’s ability to attract and then develop such a talented star is symptomatic of their newfound appeal.
The centre-back has made 19 appearances for the capital club since arriving from boyhood club Cork City on an initial loan deal in February, scoring four goals along the way.
“O’Brien collected nine Irish Premier League appearances with the Rebel Army before switching to south London,” Palace’s official website states.
“He hit the ground running for Shaun Derry’s men, scoring his first goal for the club against Sunderland in March 2021 – he added two more against Middlesbrough in their crucial 3-2 victory at Selhurst Park, as they secured a play-off place in their first season as a Category 1 Academy.”
His impressive performances for Derry’s charges have also caught the eye of several impressed onlookers, including journalist Dylan O’Connell.
O’Connell tweeted: “Jake O’Brien won the penalty (which was missed). I remember watching him breakthrough at Cork City. He came through as a RB and looked very good and physical for a teenager. Signed for Crystal Palace’s Under-23s and won promotion to PL 2 Division 1. One for the future.”
With Vieira’s squad currently light on numbers in the heart of defence and James Tomkins and Martin Kelly approaching the twilight of their careers, it might be a matter of when rather than if O’Brien forces his way into the first team setup at Selhurst Park.
And, in other news…Report provides exciting Palace transfer update that’ll leave fans buzzing