Crystal Palace have entered a new chapter in their history under the tutelage of Patrick Vieira, and the Frenchman could oversee a fresh wave of homegrown talent entering the senior ranks.
The Eagles have recently seen their academy facilities upgraded to Category 1 status after significant investment, and the fruits of their labour are already starting to show.
Last season, the under-18s only missed out on the league title to local rivals Fulham on goal difference, with several young stars making a name for themselves through a string of impressive performances.
One of those who caught the eye was 19-year-old midfielder Aiden Steele. The Northern Irishman joined Palace’s youth system in July 2019, but he really burst onto the scene last season.
He started 24 games for the under-18s throughout 2020/21, captaining them on 17 occasions, and was rewarded for his efforts in the engine room with a call-up to Shaun Derry’s under-23 setup.
The teenager has cultivated an enviable reputation for himself within the south London club, with the Eagles’ official website lauding his commitment both on and off the field.
“Steele’s grit and determination in midfield is coupled with professionalism and hard work off it,” his profile reads.
The praise for Steele inside Selhurst Park does not stop there. In a recent interview, youth coach Paddy McCarthy reportedly labelled the engine room operator “an honest and top professional” and someone who is “the first one out and the last one to leave the training pitch.”
His eye-catching displays for the club earned the youngster a call-up to the Northern Ireland under-21s in March for the very first time, but he remains ambitious to go even further in his career.
“I think I probably model myself on Toni Kroos as he has such a great passing range, touch and football brain,” Steele recently admitted. “I love the way he reads the game and can dictate a game with his one and two touch passing.”
With current Palace midfielders Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyate all 30 or over and entering the twilight period of their careers, there could be an opportunity for Vieira to unearth a real gem over the coming years, but only time will tell if Steele gets his opportunity to impress at Selhurst Park.