Local lads such as Jadon Sancho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Joe Gomez are among those who have been selected for England by Gareth Southgate, who opened Palace’s new Academy across the road from Vieira’s first-team training centre last October.
Zaha now represents Ivory Coast, having played twice for England, and reflects the diversity of south London. “Fourteen percent of all the England Premier League players come from about a five-mile radius,” Parish says, talking at the Academy.
“It’s the cultural mix here, the diversity. Lunar House in Croydon is where you come to claim asylum so naturally people settle around here. All the people that come into the area come from countries that have a big background in football.” Like Ivory Coast.
“And cage football is also a big part of it,” Parish adds of the intense, skills-filled small-sided splashes of Astroturf and steel dotted all over. Sancho honed his tricks in cage football in Kennington. Palace now actively scout south London cages. “I came here for an Under-15 game at the weekend,” Parish says, “and we had a young kid score two goals we took out of cage football at 14.”
Palace’s Academy is adorned with pictures of those who came through the ranks, including Kenny Sansom, Ian Wright and Southgate himself. Three Academy products, Zaha, Nathaniel Clyne and Tyrick Mitchell (originally AFC Wembley and Brentford), started Palace’s first game of the season, Friday’s defeat by Arsenal.
Earlier that afternoon at the Academy, Parish gives a tour to the influential shareholder David Blitzer, the American private equity investor, and two of his five children (both sons are keen high school soccer players). The Times tags along.