Crystal Palace academy boss Gary Issott has laid down the gauntlet to his young Eagles.
The man behind Wilfried Zaha’s rise to prominence wants more of his current crop to emulate the former Palace forward and break into the first team this season.
Following the release of Palace’s out of contract players in May, the academy manager believes that strong competition for places was the main reason for his U21 players leaving the club.
Ali Gordon, Quade Taylor and goalkeeper Tom King were among those released by the Eagles, while midfielder Ghassimu Sow joined Shefki Kuqi’s FC Honka on loan.
Issott said: “You see academy directors say that a player is ready for first team, and they are given the opportunity but it is down to them to take it, and they have to mentally cope with stepping up as there are physical and technical differences.
“When George Burley was here he said give me your best young player so we gave him Wilf [Zaha] and he never came back.
“Players give themselves an opportunity to progress into the manager’s plans if they impress in pre-season.
“You can’t ever call when lads are going into the first team but you give them that opportunity.”
He added: “Tony [Pulis] and I talk every day about the young players because he understands their value just as much.”
Having seen a number of players progress through the ranks at Selhurst Park, Issott is targeting more debuts this season, with the likes of Sow and Kyle de Silva returning from injury.
“We hope to get a young player into the first team next season and potentially one or two players in our Premier League team and squad every Saturday,” he said.
“That’s the huge challenge we’ve got but it’s the outcome we all want.
“There’s nothing better for a youth player than playing for their local club, it’s something for supporters to enjoy as well.”