Dominic Fifield on 21 September 2018
Roy Hodgson has backed Wilfried Zaha’s decision to voice a sense of injustice at the treatment he receives from markers but has stressed to him the need to retain focus and make his own mark on opponents by using his “skill and goalscoring ability”.
Zaha went public with his grievance after last weekend’s victory at Huddersfield, when a foul from Mathias Jørgensen earned the defender a caution, though he was quick to cite a worse challenge by Watford’s Étienne Capoue against him last month. The 25-year-old claimed he would have to “get my leg broken” for a marker to be dismissed, adding: “That’s why I lose my head. Why am I getting different treatment from other players?”
Palace, who host Newcastle on Saturday, have mentioned the challenges on Zaha in their match reports to PGMOL and the Premier League. “Wilf is a person who has a strong sense of justice,” Hodgson said. “Like all players with exceptional ability, they need to be looked after that extra bit. The public pay their money really to see the artists, not necessarily the artisans.
“Wilf is mature enough to know fouls are part of the business but we all hope our best players will be protected. He gave an honest answer which came from the heart and was obviously boiling up inside him. And now he knows what he has got to do. The best way to answer criticism, the best way to deal with people who are trying to stop you unfairly is to punish them by using your skill, beating them and scoring goals.”
Zaha has three goals from four games but as many cautions, accrued after being riled by aggressive treatment. Hodgson, while sympathetic, has spoken with him about keeping his emotions in check given Zaha is a player Palace can ill afford to lose to suspension.
“The retaliatory yellow cards are ones you can question,” Hodgson said. “You have to get up, smile at your opponent and move on: that is the perceived wisdom, but it is not that easy when you are out there.”