Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce has warned Wilfried Zaha of the need to retain his focus as his fine form attracts wider attention and leads to speculation surrounding his future.
The winger, 24, has produced the best football of his career to inspire Palace’s recent resurgence as they battle against relegation.
Allardyce has already instructed Zaha to strive to reach the level at which Eden Hazard regularly plays, while Palace chairman Steve Parish has spoken of plans to offer him a new contract once their Premier League status is secured.
Zaha has long been a reported transfer target for Tottenham and Liverpool, and ahead of Wednesday evening’s fixture at Southampton his manager has reminded him of where his priorities should lie.
“Hopefully Wilf is not listening to all that the papers are saying, good or bad. And that it doesn’t distract him from the performances he is giving,” said Allardyce. ”
“You can get distracted by good publicity as well as bad, and he has to consistently perform to the level he is at and that gives him a greater value, and Steve has chosen maybe to offer a new deal.
“Whether Wilf accepts that, maybe on the basis that he likes this club and what the club’s done for him, only time will tell. So come the end of the season, make sure we are in the Premier League and those talks can take place, but until then shut up about it.
“He’s maturing as a person and that maturity is producing consistent performances. I don’t want him to get distracted from the focus, which is getting better and keeping us in the Premier League.
“If there is any real interest, that interest will be portrayed to Steve. At the moment it’s all about creating speculation.
“You don’t want it to affect the player’s focus. I’ve seen it at some clubs when a player thinks they are moving and switches off.
“There’s a lot of talk about him: I just hope it doesn’t distract him.”
Allardyce in confident mood
Wednesday’s trip to St Mary’s, for which central defenders James Tomkins and Scott Dann have been ruled out, follows Saturday’s unexpected and impressive 2-1 win at Chelsea.
Despite four successive victories Palace remain 16th and only four points above the bottom three, and Allardyce is concerned about the prospect of complacency, having regularly experienced his teams’ struggle immediately after big wins.
“My experience has been at Palace, Blackburn, Bolton, when they have pulled off a big one, it’s always hard to win the next one. And my challenge to the players is ‘Can you go out again and do it again?’, he said.
“When we have beaten one of the big three or four it’s always hard to get up for the game after. And because this game is in the week, and not the week after, it’s harder and I’m going to try to explain to the players (in training) the need for the same desire and commitment they showed on Saturday.
“But it’s a buoyant mood. It’s a much better place of work now. The doom and gloom is lifting slightly but we have still a way to go to make sure we don’t waste this result.
“We have achieved one of the shocks of this season and we have to make sure we don’t waste it.”