Under new coach Patrick Viera, Crystal Palace are hoping to build one of the best football academies in the country.
South London is one of Britain’s football hotbeds at the moment, with young stars Jadon Sancho, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi all hailing from close to Selhurst Park.
Those young prodigies all got snapped up by other clubs, but Eagles chairman Steve Parish has a long-term goal of improving the academy.
In the past, Crystal Palace has unearthed young gems like Wilfred Zaha, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ian Wright.
It is clear new boss Viera has bought into Parish’s vision.
The former Arsenal legend made two presentations during his job interview that caught the eye.
The first was to do with the style of football he wanted to introduce, and the second was how the coaching staff will create a link between the academy and the first team to get the best out of the Eagles’ young guns.
The signs have been encouraging so far, with 12 academy players involved in this year’s pre-season.
And some have already been given a nod in the league, with some of the young players making an impression on the new manager.
Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, 18
Jesurun Rak-Sakyi was involved in the thumping 3-0 defeat at the hands of European champions Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season.
Everyone at Palace would want to forget the result, but they’ll also be glad that their highly rated youngster made his Premier League debut.
Tall, athletic and full of tricks, he’s a winger who can easily go past his marker and has been likened to Wilfred Zaha.
The Ghanaian will hope that he can have a similar impact to the one Zaha is currently having at Palace.
Former manager Roy Hodgson had this to say about him last season: “At Palace he’s got a bright future and he’ll get better and better.”
Rak-Sakyi was signed by Palace in 2019 after being released by Chelsea academy at the age 16.
The Palace recruitment team made up their mind on him the moment they watched him play in a kick-about and he’s gone on to become the brightest star in the youth team.
Roy Hodgson gave him his first team debut against Chelsea after he’d signed his two year professional contract last season.
The winger had a great pre-season under Patrick Vieira and will look to kick on.
Scott Banks, 19
Scott Banks is a highly-rated attacking midfielder, who is also comfortable playing out wide.
Banks is at his best when taking the ball under pressure and makes good use with clever movement.
With a good pre-season under his belt, he’ll now hope to get the chance in the first team.
The 19-year-old cut his teeth at Dundee United, where he signed his first professional contract at the age of 16.
In February 2019, Banks joined Scottish League Two side Clyde on loan and quickly became a fan favourite, scoring goals for fun.
Dundee sporting director Tony Asghar said: “I believe that Scott has the ability to be a really top talent in world football.”
Crystal Palace made an offer of £400,00 to Dundee that brought the exciting talent to South London.
Malachi Boateng, 19
Malachi Boateng has been with Palace since 2018, and in that time won the award for best player for the U-18 and U-23 team.
He was a regular in first team training sessions under former boss Roy Hodgso,n and looks set to make the next step now in his career after enjoying impressive pre-season games.
A hard battling midfielder who has added aggression to his game, he loves getting up the field and dictating play at the heart of the pitch.
The 19-year-old willl be hoping to finally let all those first team training sessions culminate into a senior debut in the Premier League.
Crystal Palace U-18 team coach Shaun Derry said: “This young player has brought so many highs to this training group. He is a pleasure to work with.
“Hopefully he can develop more and more as the years go by and we can hear a lot more about him.”
Nya Kirby, 21
Nya Kirby joined Crystal Palace from the Tottenham Hotspur academy in 2018 as a highly rated midfielder.
He made his senior debut last season in the EFL Cup, and has also spent seasons on loan at Blackpool and Tranmere Rovers.
An attacking midfielder with bags of energy, he was a part of the England U-17 World Cup winning team in 2017, scoring the decisive penalty in the round of sixteen game against Japan.
After getting games in the tank during preseason, he’ll hope he’s done enough to stay at Palace.
Former Blackpool manager Terry McPhilips said: “He’s not fazed, he can beat people and has got a good temperament.”
Reece Hannam, 20
The ball-playing defender’s story is one of determination and grit.
Hannam was released by fellow Premier League outfit West Ham United, after 11 years at the club.
He was on the verge of giving up football when he got snapped up by Palace.
The rejection by West Ham gave Hannam fuel that has seen him earn a contract extension after regularly training with the first team.
Last season, he was drafted into the first team match day squad against Fulham.
Even though he is yet to make his first team debut, he’s generally seen as one of the best players in the academy at the moment.
A ball playing defender with plenty of pace to burn and a determination borne out of rejection, Reece will be hoping that new manager Patrick Vieira will continue to look his way as the season travels on.
Former manager Roy Hodgson said: “We’ve got a really exciting defender in Reece Hannam and we’ve moved him to come and train with us.
“He’s developing well and he’s earned his spot.”