Forgotten Crystal Palace cult hero makes football return at 37
Crystal Palace legend and Premier League cult hero Jason Puncheon has turned heads by being appointed as manager of struggling Cypriot side AEZ Zakakiou, eight months after announcing his retirement from playing the game.
The 37-year-old will endeavour to keep the club in the Cyrpus First Division with the team currently sitting 12th out of 14 places, just three points above the bottom of the table. AEZ Zakakiou have conceded 54 goals in 23 fixtures so far this term, making them the most porous defence in the division.
Puncheon, who made 169 appearances for the Eagles between 2013 and 2019, had been managing Peyia in the second tier but quit that post earlier this year. The midfielder may have dropped off the radar of many fans but is managing in the country having been playing his football for Anorthosis Famagusta before his retirement last summer.
Puncheon began his playing career at MK Dons but enjoyed his most notable spells at Southampton and Crystal Palace, where he became a Premier League regular. He bagged 23 top-flight goals while in the UK and was part of the Crystal Palace side that finished as runners-up in the FA Cup in 2016.
The midfielder is, of course, famous for running off the pitch mid-game for Southampton to answer a call of nature before returning to action minutes later in early 2013. The moment has inspired some iconic supporter chants and Puncheon even referenced the piece of Premier League folklore in a celebration weeks later as he pretended to wipe his behind having netted against Manchester City.
When he left Crystal Palace in 2019, Puncheon shared a message of love for the club and said: "I want to say thank you to the fans. I want to say thank you to Steve Parish, you know he brought me here after being on loan. I want to thank all the managers I had. I want to thank Roy [Hodgson] especially because he’s been brilliant for me in this last part. I said about Danny [Young] the kitman, he’s a good man.
"But without the fans... everybody around the football club... It’s a special club, it’s a place that will always stay in my heart – thank you, everyone. I wish the football club all the best for the future."