In our latest instalment of the Transfer Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain transfer in recent history and take a look at it within the context of now and whether it was a good decision to let him go or not.
Crystal Palace’s youth academy is something which the club and their fans can be very proud of. Over the past 10 or so years, it has seen players such as Wilfried Zaha, Nathaniel Clyne, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Moses and Jonny Williams all graduate from the system and play for the club.
However, since the Eagles have been in the Premier League they have found it harder to give youth so much of a chance due to the better squads they have had and the increased pressure of staying in the league. In fact, since Palace were promoted to the Premier League, the only youth player to make a full debut for the Eagles has been Aaron Wan-Bissaka (per Independent) – a stark change from the Championship where Palace were seemingly much more willing to give youth a chance.
The fact that Palace have given so few academy players debuts in recent years means that only the very best players will get a chance, and even that might take circumstance (injuries in Wan-Bissaka’s case).
This week former Crystal Palace player Randell Williams – currently playing for League Two side Exeter City – has been linked with a move to the Championship after an impressive start in the fourth-tier, so we’re taking a closer look under the microscope at his time at Palace.
The winger joined Palace quite late as a 19-year-0ld after Alan Pardew was impressed with him during a trial spell at the club. At the time, Williams had been playing senior football in the ninth-tier for Tower Hamlets, but unfortunately, his move didn’t work out well and he was released a season afterwards without playing a game for the Eagles.
Consequently, the youngster moved on and joined Watford in 2017, where he did not play for the first team but did get his first taste of professional football as he went out on loan to Wycombe twice before being signed by Exeter.
The player has now amassed 43 EFL appearances scoring three goals and registering four assists and has spurred clubs such as Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest, QPR and Huddersfield to register an interest in him (TEAMtalk).
Perhaps Palace could have kept the player and let him go out on loan, which could have raised the club some more money through potential sales, but it is so hard to imagine him breaking through into the first-team at Premier League level, even if Championship sides are interested in him now.
If you look at a previous young player such as Sullay Kaikai, you can see how he succeeded lots while on loan at lower league clubs, with the winger having really good spells in League One and League Two scoring regularly at that level; but the Eagles still couldn’t find a route for him into the first team. The winger scored 17 goals within the space of a few seasons for Shrewsbury and Cambridge United (Soccerbase), but when coming back to Palace, all he could muster was three substitute appearances and he was later sold on to NAC Breda.
The pressure of staying in the Premier League is too great for the club to be able to be giving young players a chance. As youth coach and former player Richard Shaw says within this iNews article regarding the rise of Wan-Bissaka, “It’s not easy for clubs to keep turning out young players, it’s very difficult in this day and age”.
Still, while his recent good form has suggested there is a talent there, Palace got it right when allowing the player to leave, despite him enjoying an interesting path since as he attempts to make his way back up the footballing ladder.
Was Williams given a fair chance at Crystal Palace? Join the discussion by commenting below…
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