Crystal Palace are one of English football’s smaller clubs, notorious for yielding crop after crop of talented young British players, along with the others such as Southampton and to a lesser extent Sheffield United. The likes of Andrew Johnson, Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne, Wayne Routledge and Victor Moses who represented England up to U-21 level but ended up choosing to represent Nigeria at senior level, are a few of many former-Palace players currently playing in the Premier League. Come 2012, the youth system at Palace is still intact and another exciting crop of youngsters are coming through, whilst one name stands out in particular: Ryan Inniss.
He started off at Seymour Villa, a local club I once trained with before falling victim to stepping in dog muck and never returning back to Cator Park for another training session. Indeed, Ryan was a pivotal player for the Tandridge team, playing in a number of positions with a large degree of comfort. Then came Palace Guard, another local team that helped him get noticed by Fisher Athletic, then eventually Crystal Palace at the age of 14. He suffered a big injury and came back playing as a centre back at the age of 15, the position he settled at. He has also made 13 appearances across England U-16 and U-17 level, which is why it’s no surprise, the young Palace centre half has attracted interest from Manchester City and is set for a big future.
As mentioned before, Palace have a fine selection of young English talent coming through at present, with Wilf Zaha serving as the current flagship young player at Selhurst Park, who put in a good shift in the recent derby win over Charlton at The Valley which is testament to his continuous development over the past few seasons. At the other end, Reise Allissani is a small tricky forward who scored a screamer on his England U-16 debut vs Wales whilst Alex Wynter another fine centre half who made his first team debut in the FA Cup at the age of 16. Wynter & Allissani are another two players who look set to blossom at Palace in the years to come. Kyle Da Silva is a former youth team-turned first team player competing with the likes of Jon Williams, a soon to-be Wales international which only further stresses the strength Crystal Palace have in their youth system. It could be argued Manchester United have the best youth system in the country, epitomised by Paul Scholes’ priceless return to the Red Devils, saving them many millions on a potential transfer. The same system can be found at Palace, who although are currently exposed to some financial unrest, the club still produces quality players for free, which can only be a good thing. Ryan is not only just another fine youth player hailing from South East London but in my eyes, he could one day be captain of Crystal Palace.
When he’s on the ball, Ryan always remains calm and finds a teammate. He never rushes and panics; the Penge lad favours ball retention more so than hoofing it long or even losing the ball. Aerially, Ryan is a giant and rarely loses a header. He poses an attacking threat, which is more than a lot of young defenders show at the age of 16, which he did captaining England U-16’s to Victory Shield glory heading in the winning goal back in 2011. He dominates the defence with ease by making it difficult for attackers to get a yard on him, whilst he will also slide into a tackle should it be necessary. He offers both the England and Crystal Palace youth teams he captains a degree of comfort from the back, playing his part in a highly-rated U17 back four, which also contains the highly-rated left back, Luke Shaw. Ryan has the ability to become a big leader at Palace, captaining the youth teams both at club & international level at the age of 16, impressive considering James Ward-Prowse & Raheem Sterling; two refreshing 17 year olds playing first team football in the Premier League, recently progressed through the same England set-ups.
Dougie Freedman named Ryan as a first team substitute twice last season: at home to Southampton and away to Birmingham; two of the hardest games for any Championship club last season. Surely this is implies the Scot has plans for Ryan at some point in the near future. As for the here and now, there’s no doubt Ryan will eventually become a first-team Palace player and regular one at that. Ward-Prowse and Sterling emerged from relative secrecy to first-team football in an instant. Whether Sterling is Liverpool’s only stand-by answer to their attacking crisis until January, he is still selected ahead of £20 million man Downing whilst Ward-Prowse is staking a major claim for Jack Cork’s spot as part of a favoured 5-man midfield at St Marys. Ryan Inniss will without a doubt flourish into a fine young player. Having known him since the days where his only footballing achievement was making older kids pick him first when we played football, he will definitely turn out into potentially one of England’s finer centre-halves. With the right mechanics, and provided lady luck blesses his fitness, I’m sure the Man City scouts will agree with me when I say he could one day be an England international. For now, I will be patiently waiting to see when, and not if, Ryan is exposed to first-team football and I also hope Palace can maybe sneak a 6th place come next May, after all, the South East London have one of the finest young systems in London, and Ryan Inniss is testament to this.