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Crystal Palace U18's vs Aston Villa U18's - (CPFC Work Experience)

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Hi everyone,

Hope you are all well.

Over the past week I have been at Crystal Palace’s academy for work experience, the week was topped off with me being able to attend my first under 18 match against Aston Villa u18s. As I was still on work experience I was able to see the behind the scenes of a match day, I had already had the honour of spending the week in the amazing facilities so by the weekend we were part of the furniture, and most people knew me. The facilities were newly built in 2020 during COVID and multiple people reiterated how positively different the new academy was, and it ultimately gives the players everything they need in one place. Over the week I was lucky enough to have some conversations with the players to get a better insight of life as an academy footballer, so it was really interesting to see from a fan’s perspective. I have written up all of my interviews and will be posting them over the following week as I think it will be too long of a post to do them all together, so if you’re interested in what they had to say look out for the posts.

The match day arrived and Susan (the player care officer who I was doing work experience with) wanted me to arrive at 9am. Throughout the week my PA had been coming with me, but as it was the weekend the responsibility was handed back to my Mum; she was pleasantly surprised by how polite all the players were and how they took the time to say hello. The first job of the day was to restock the changing room and dugouts with bananas and water for half time and when the boys needed it during the game, one of my staff interviews was with the club nutritionist so I can now see how important these snacks are. We then had to deliver the match ball into the officials changing room (spoiler alert which one of our boys took home with him!), this was my first time in the changing rooms and the difference in size in the away end compared to the home team was drastic, but we can’t be making an away trip easy for them! Before every game the players will have a quick meeting with their managers where they will do some final video analysis to make sure everyone knows their jobs for the next 90 minutes. To avoid being hit by any wayward balls we watched from the balcony outside the restaurant, it was an amazing view the only downside was there was no sun on us (which was more of an issue for my mum 😅).

It was an 11am kick off and Crystal Palace were going into the game 6 points off the top of the under 18 Premier League, with 6 games left (including 2 games in hand) so it was all to play for. We started a little slow with Aston Villa applying the pressure, but against the tide within 12 minutes Victor Akinwale had put us in front. A long ball up from our keeper Shala finding the path of Akinwale who was able to dink the ball over the keeper and send it into the back of the net; from where we were sitting it was hard to see if it was his or an own goal, but it was definitely his! Within minutes the ball was in the back of the net again, this time by Ademola Ola-Adebomi but the flag was up for offside, and it wasn’t given. It was interesting to see that the centre backs were taking the goal kicks, this often happens with the first team, but I annoyingly forgot to ask captain Joe Sheridan if there is any particular reason for this. On the subject of the goalkeeper, Laurence Shala did really well on multiple occasions both coming out to close the angle and also making some fast reactant saves. Akinwale was back involved just after the halfway point of the first half, he was brought down in the box leaving the referee with no option but to blow for a penalty... Victor stepped up to take and with no hesitation slotted it into the back of the net, putting up 2-0 up. A lot of chances were created, and I was particularly impressed with the wing backs Vonnte Williams and Joshua Addae as they provided so much attacking threat and looked like proper modern day wing backs! Another penalty was awarded in the 38th minute but this time it was too our opponents, I may be bias but I felt it was extremely soft and the player made the most of minimal contact. The penalty was converted by Kobei Moore sending us into the break 2-1 up.

Aston Villa started the second half strong once again, but this was only short lasting before we got a good grip of the game. Akinwale had the chance of getting his hat trick after only being back on the pitch for 3 minutes, a scuffed shot from Ola-Adebomi left the ball to land in the path of Akinwale to slot into the net, but the flag was up for offside and once again nothing was given. The boys continued to push and reaped the rewards in the 54th minute as they got their 3rd goal of the game, this time Jadan Raymond got himself of the scoresheet after the ball fell nicely to him at close range for him to slot home. Victor didn’t have to wait long to seal his first hat-trick of the season, just 3 minutes after Raymond scored the prolific striker was in the right place at the back stick to head a beautifully worked cross from Maliq Cadogen into the net; the celebrations were extra loud for this one! Palace were playing some lovely football and were being totally ruthless with their chances. Another player that stood out was Kaden Rodney, his long balls up from his centre back position were incredible, it reminded me a lot of Andersen, and he also looked comfortable when under pressure; Kaden has signed a professional deal with the club so hopefully in the future he will be one of the centre backs for the first team. As we headed into the final 30 minutes of the game the boys showed no signs of slowing down, a positive forward run from Ola-Adebomi created our fifth goal, as he laid the ball off to David Ozoh inside the box and he set the ball souring into the back of the net for his second goal for Crystal Palace. Second half substitutions saw Freddie Bell, Junior Dixon and Basilio Reino-Socoliche (who was just returning from injury) get some minutes in the tank. There was a heart in mouth moment towards the end as an Aston Villa player weaved through what seemed half of our team making their way into the box, nothing came of it, but it wasn’t the best sight to see as Palace made it very easy for him to get where he wanted. The game was topped off with a final goal from Ola-Adebomi, Ademola worked very hard throughout so deserved to get on the scoresheet for himself, using his power and speed to get through the Villa defence before placing the ball into the back of the net, and ending the game with a 6-1 victory.

An impressive performance from the young Eagles especially in the second half, they showed they were not afraid to be ruthless and did not slow down for the whole 90 minutes. This result was their highest scoring game this season, some may say I’m their lucky mascot! There are some real talented upcoming ballers in the team, and it’ll be very exciting to see how many of them make it into the Crystal Palace first team!

Post-match interview with Victor Akinwale (VA) and Joe Sheridan (JS) -

Interviewee (EK)

Q - "First of all congratulations on the 6-1 victory, hat-trick for Victor, was that your first hat trick?"

VA - “Yeah it was my first hat trick for this season, I’ve not scored a hat trick for like 2 seasons now [EK - “How do you feel?”] I’m delighted happy to finally get a hat trick”

EK - “And this was your highest scoring game this season”

JS “Yeah, it’s been coming I think we’ve been on the verge so it’s good that it’s finally happened”

Q - “Victor, how useful is it for as a striker to have attacking minded wing backs in the team?”

VA - “Yeah our wing backs are really attacking minded they like to run forwards, so it helps me as they get the crosses into the box for me to get on the end of. Obviously my third goal [EK - “your final goal was a header at the back post”] yeah so I like playing with attacking full back.

Q - “There are now six games left is your aim now to push for the title this year?”

JS - “Yeah I think it has to be, but we just need to be careful and take every game as it comes and not look to far ahead in the future, because that’s when our performances can start dropping off cause we’re looking at the bigger picture rather than focusing on the next game. We’ve got a big game against Southampton next week then we will take that 90 minutes and go from there I think.”

Q - “Do you think it was a penalty?”

JS - “We’re not allowed to criticise the refs I don’t think, so I don’t know I’ll have to watch it back” very sensible response from the captain, meanwhile from my other participant ...

VA - “NO! [laughs] I’m saying it wasn’t a pen” pretty sure sharing what Joe was really thinking

Q - “As captain how impressed are you with the performances both today and over the season?”

JS “Yeah I think it’s been really good, I mean definitely over the last few weeks we’ve seen some more of a collected team performance, and we can really see how we play with the shape and everything starting to come together, so that’s really nice to see. I think we’re going into games with a lot more confidence and like you say this is the first time we’ve scored 6 goals in a game and yeah we feel confident I think to go out and score that many goals.

EK “Even for yourself as a centre back you was up attacking, I saw you up the other end a little bit.”

JS - “Yeah a little bit, couple of nose bleeds down here [laughs]. It's not my forte but I’ll try now and again.

Q - “It was a very dominate second half, was anything said at half time to motivate you in anyway?”

VA - “Just to keep pushing, we kept them in their own half all the first half so just take our chances and the goals will come, but yeah I feel in the second half we did do that.”

As both a fan and aspiring journalist this was a fantastic opportunity for me which will definitely help me in the future, and hopefully it also helped the players to get experience of being asked post-match questions.

Thank you for reading, like I said there will be some more posts over the next week containing some conversations I’ve had throughout my week at Palace.



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