Winger Joseph Hungbo, at just 18 is following in the footsteps of footballing legends who have risen through the Palace Academy including England manager Gareth Southgate.
Joseph, from Croydon, who signed his first professional contract with the Premier League side this month will no doubt be eyeing a future place in the England team which is chasing World Cup glory under the leadership of Southgate, who was the youngest captatin to lead Palace to promotion.
Hungbo who has come through the Oasis Academy in Shirley where other Palace prospect Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 20, from New Addington was schooled, is one of the Eagles academy’s brightest stars and had attracted interest from both Liverpool and Chelsea.
Wan-Bissaka broke thorough into the first team last season and has already been described as a ‘promising talent’ who is likely to remain part of manager Roy Hodgson’s first-team plans.
Just like Wilfried Zaha, they all grew up in Croydon, and their discoveries demonstrate how the Academy structure is great for spotting and harnessing emerging talent.
Palace for Life Foundation provides football and education programme for all ages including over-16s at Croydon’s Harris Academy in partnership with Volenti Academy, established by one of Southgate’s contemporaries Bobby Bowry.
Through the varied and holistic work the Foundation carries out they are giving local youngsters opportunities to one day fulfil a dream just like Southgate did. Just last season alone eight young players came through the Foundation programmes – signing for CPFC’s Academy teams.
Bobby who played at Palace for four seasons said: “Gareth was part of the youth team when I joined Palace. He was a fantastic role model with a great attitude, desire and dedication. He was very professional and driven; a great player and very team oriented.
“We had a great group of players around us. There was something special. It doesn’t surprise me that we’ve got Gareth Southgate as manager of England, Chris Coleman managing Wales and Richard Shaw at the CPFC Academy. “
About today’s Academy stars, he said: “We have two boys from the Volenti Academy who have gone to America on full scholarship and two boys who have got onto the Players Academy at St George’s Park. I am proud because we’re dealing with a different type of kid, a street kid, and we’re giving them a different point of view.
“The Foundation let us use the CPFC name to help us get into the community. I love what I do working with young players and giving them a chance like I had. I went from having nothing to being where I am now and that’s because of the opportunities I was given.”