Holloway hails departing Crystal Palace hero Wilfried Zaha

28 May 2013 11:47

Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway lauded Wilfried Zaha's "genius" after the Manchester United-bound winger's star turn in the 1-0 win over Watford in the Championship play-off final.

Zaha will return to Selhurst Park as a United player in the Premier League next season, having signed for the English champions in a deal worth up to £15 million ($22.7 million, 17.6 million euros) in January before being loaned back to Palace.

He made sure he left on good terms, however, producing a man-of-the-match display on a sun-kissed afternoon at Wembley and winning the extra-time penalty from which Kevin Phillips scored the winner.

For Phillips, victory represented play-off success at the fourth time of asking and Holloway expressed gratitude to his match-winners after a first-half injury to Kagisho Dikgacoi had threatened to upset his plans.

"With the injury, that really rocked the boat because there was an awful long time to go, but in the end, what a wonderful story," said Holloway.

"Phillips hasn't won before, now he has. Wilfried gets the penalty. Games like that are won and lost on moments of genius and I think Wilf's little run was unplayable.

"I'm going to enjoy today, enjoy tonight and then scratch my head and think about how we're going to stay there."

Despite Zaha's obvious worth to Palace, Holloway dismissed the idea that he might ask incoming United manager David Moyes if he could take the 20-year-old England international back to Palace on loan.

"I think he'd be silly to give him back," he said.

"It might be unrealistic but who knows? He'll know the task that he's got, so good luck to him and good luck to us."

Watford manager Gianfranco Zola said Zaha "made a big difference" and tipped him to be a success at Old Trafford.

"He's got a lot of ability. Today I liked the way he managed himself on the pitch," said the former Chelsea striker.

"Now he's got a big task as he's playing for the champions and the level he has to play for is a little bit bigger, but I'm sure he'll learn and he's going to a place where they are great at improving players.

"He can go very far because he has a lot of talent."

Phillips, 39, has yet to decide whether he will play on next season but Holloway said he would be eager to take the veteran striker back on loan from Blackpool.

"I'll keep signing him until he's nearly 50 or 60 if he keeps putting the ball in the net," he said.

"He just needs to keep that little spark of enthusiasm, that little jiggle inside him. I've still got mine, hopefully he's still got his."

Promotion to the Premier League is reputed to be worth £120 million but Holloway said Palace would be careful not to make rash moves in the transfer market.

"I don't really want to talk about money," he said.

"If we can look at (improving) the ground, the gentlemen (Palace's owners) want to keep running this club the way we are.

"How much you spend on the group doesn't always give you something -- it's what's inside their hearts and how much they want to work for you."

Zola, whose side narrowly missed out on automatic promotion on the final day of the Championship season, said Watford would be better for the experience.

"This is not the end of the road for us, it's just the beginning," he said.

"It's been a big bonus for us to be playing this game. It's been a great season and next season I'm 100 percent sure we'll be stronger."

Source: AFP

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