5 Transfers from the Championship Wilfried Zaha Should Look to Emulate
Wilfried Zaha is the latest in the long line of players who will be making the big step-up into the Premier League. For teams, managers and players, the Premier League has often proven to be a completely different animal to the football league.
Some come in and adapt immediately. But not many. Some take time, but eventually prove they are Premier League class. Most players struggle to make any real impact.
There will be a lot of pressure on Zaha to make an impression at United. Alex Ferguson demands a lot from his young players. The likes of Phil Jones, Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling will testify to that, as they were thrown straight into the first team after signing for the club.
For the time being, Zaha will remain at Crystal Palace. But when he joins the United squad next summer, you can bet that Ferguson will have every intention of utilising him in the first team. It is very much a "sink or swim" approach at United for the younger players.
With that in mind, I looked back to players that the youngster might look to emulate. Players who have come into the Premier League from the lower divisions and have made a real impact for their respective clubs.
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Milwall’s Tim Cahill was brought in with a segment of the money from Rooney’s sale. Just £2 million to be precise. It looked an underwhelming signing on paper, but Cahill clearly had a point to prove.
In his first season at the club, Cahill scored 12 goals and helped fire Everton to a somewhat miraculous fourth-place finish. His late bursts into the box became trademark, whilst the typical Aussie grit and determination endeared him to the Goodison Park faithful.
Cahill remained at Everton for another eight years and became arguably the clubs best player in the Premier League era. During his peak, he was probably the best header of a ball in European football, despite measuring up at just under 6' in height. His timing and spring remain immaculate.
68 goals later, Cahill remains one of the best ever bits of business conducted by a Premier League club.
He still speaks of his fondness of Everton, as well as Milwall:
Thanks for all the kind messages and great pics from Millwall and Everton fans.Both clubs will always hold a special place in my heart 4ever— Tim Cahill (@Tim_Cahill) January 29, 2013
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One man Zaha will know a lot about is his former Crystal Palace teammate Nathaniel Clyne. Southampton took him to St Mary’s last summer, with Clyne being touted as one of the up-and-coming full-backs in England.
Despite Southampton having a notoriously leaky defence at the start of the campaign, Clyne was always the player in the back-four who looked the most assured despite his inexperience of the Premier League.
He has all the traits a modern full-back requires. He gets up and down the line, offers a direct threat in wide areas and I’ve yet to see him shirk a tackle yet. His transition from Championship to Premier League looks to has been seamless.
Credit must go to former Saints manager Nigel Adkins on this one as well as the Crystal Palace academy. Clyne looks to be an excellent bit of business.
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Lescott is another player that David Moyes plucked from the Championship and turned into a Premier League regular.
Lescott always had potential at Wolves, but his development was curtailed by an injury which saw him on the sidelines for over a year. However, Everton took a punt on him.
He initially struggled to settle in the Premier League, as Everton were unable to decide on a regular defensive lineup. In his second season at the club, Lescott was deployed primarily at left-back, with the central defensive positions occupied by Joseph Yobo and Phil Jagielka.
It was in this position that Lescott started to find his feet in the Premier League. The switch in his role allowed him to get a feel for the top division whilst not being directly in the firing line. He scored ten goals from left-back that season and went on to forge a formidable central defensive partnership with Phil Jagielka in the next campaign.
So impressive where his performances, it saw Manchester City pay £22 million to take him to Eastlands. Lescott now has a Premier League winners medal.
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Big things were certainly expected of the young Southampton academy prospect, as Arsenal shelled out £12.5 million on Walcott as a 16-year-old.
Walcott shot to prominence after being selected for the England World Cup squad in 2006, despite never actually starting a game for the Gunners. It could be argued that this added pressure had a detrimental effect on Walcott in his early career. For all his pace and trickery, there were many who had doubts over his end product.
Alan Hansen infamously bemoaned Walcott's lack of a "football brain" back in 2010.
It is only now that Walcott has begun to show signs of becoming one of Europe’s best strikers. The England international looks more composed in front of goal and has as a result been given a run in the centre-forward position. He is now Arsenal’s highest paid player after signing a new lucrative deal at the club.
A case of too much, too young perhaps?
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Another player off the conveyor belt of exciting young Southampton academy prospects, Bale was a target for all of the big names in England. He eventually moved to Spurs for £10 million and it is fair to say he did not have the best of starts.
He suffered a serious injury in his first season at the club, putting him on the sidelines for five months. Then Spurs failed to notch a win in the first 24 games Bale featured in. It doesn't get much worse, does it?
But Harry Redknapp saw his potential and blooded him into the side. He has never looked back.
Playing as an orthodox left-winger, (as opposed to his earlier stints at left-back) the Welshman has turned into one of the best left-sided players in world football. His crowning moments to date came in Tottenham’s two games against Inter Milan, where he tore apart Maicon (the worlds best right back at the time, apparently).
It is no surprise that European footballs elite names are now linked with Bale, but Spurs will be desperate to hang on to the man who they shown so much faith in at a young age. Things, after all, could have been so very different for the Welsh Wizard.
Can you think of any players that have stepped up from the Championship? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter @MattJFootball