Crystal Palace have come on a long way since Patrick Vieira’s first Premier League game as a manager at Stamford Bridge in August.
The Eagles were beaten 3-0 by the then-recently-crowed UEFA Super Cup champions, with Vieira fielding a starting XI that was still yet to feel the full benefit of the club’s summer recruitment.
Danish international Joachim Andersen made his debut off the bench, Conor Gallagher was unable to face his parent club while Odsonne Edouard and Will Hughes both didn’t arrive at the club until the final days of the transfer window.
The circumstances meant Palace played a compact 4-4-2 in west London rather than the more expansive 4-3-3 that Vieira has employed ever since.
It also meant there were opportunities for fringe players, with teenager Jesurun Rak-Sakyi coming off the bench to make his senior debut for the club in the second half.
The speedy winger is one of the club’s most treasured young talents and after making his debut Vieira told reporters he was hoping to help Rak-Sakyi get the most out of his talent.
“He’s a kid who spent pre-season with us and I was really pleased with what he’s been doing on the field,” said the Frenchman. “He’s a really lovely kid and when he came on at 3-0 I just wanted him to get on the ball.
“He’s a good dribbler, can score goals as well so I wanted him to be a bit higher on the field, but he spent most of the time behind the ball defending. He’s a young, talented player and we have to work with him to try to help him.”
Following his Premier League debut, Rak-Sakyi made the bench for subsequent games against Brentford, Watford and West Ham before dropping back into Paddy McCarthy’s Under-23s side.
Playing predominantly on the left-wing, the 19-year-old has 12 goals and three assists in just 17 Premier League 2 matches this season, also finding the back of the net on his England Under-20 debut against Romania in September.
As a result, Rak-Sakyi was widely tipped to be heading out on loan in January to gain first-team experience like many of his teammates were doing.
Jake O’Brien (Swindon), Rob Street (Newport) and Luke Dreher (Bromley) were among those sent out down the football pyramid for minutes, though Rak-Sakyi was still at Crystal Palace by 11pm on deadline day.
“He didn’t go on loan so he will be training with the first team until the end of the season,” Vieira said ahead of Palace’s FA Cup tie against Hartlepool in early February.
“We believe that he is a talent but at the same time we need to help him develop that talent and that will take time.
“Training every day with the players that we have in our football club will improve him and this is important for him to spend time with the first team.”
Rak-Sakyi is still yet to get back on the pitch for Vieira since his debut against Chelsea, with his most recent activity on the pitch seeing him start and score for the Under-23s in a 4-1 win over Spurs at the start of the month.
In keeping him at the club and not sending him on loan, Palace are hoping that the teenager’s development will continue at its best by working within a Premier League environment.