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Spotlight on James Daly

James Daly celebrates

Intrepid interviewer Taimour Lay trapped James Daly in a corner and forced him into an interview for the K's programme...

There’s a Youtube video of three Crystal Palace forwards engaged in shooting practice under the watchful eye of manager Roy Hodgson. The sound is of familiar training-ground orders, distant claps, the thud of a clean strike and teasing banter as the balls fly into the top corner, over and over again. Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend are enjoying their morning’s work. The third player expertly executing curled finishes with his left foot is 18-year-old James Daly, who receives nods of approval from the senior pros.

When Daly arrived on loan this season, K’s fans didn’t quite know what to expect. A starlet from a Premier League club always excites but would he be a callow youth unprepared for the stresses and strains of an Isthmian campaign? Not a bit of it. The striker, adapting to playing off the flanks, has embraced life at Step 3 and scored another crucial strike against Corinthian-Casuals on Saturday (see pic), his 8th of the season.

Taimour Lay caught up with James after his wondergoal at Enfield Town in November. This article was originally published in the matchday programme on 15th December 2018.

James! What a goal! Is that the best you’ve ever scored?

It’s definitely up there! Jamie Lawrence told me at half-time to link in with the strikers more, once I linked with Elliott [Buchanan], Elliott played me and then I went past one, I tried to get a shot away with my left, but then I saw the right-back coming in and he was going to block it, so I took him on! And then I was one-on-one with the keeper, I knew when he’d come out and commit, so I saw that then put it under him.

It seemed like you had all the time in the world and were just thinking it through phase by phase.

It’s weird. It all slows down, I sort of know what I’m going to do before it comes, and then once the keeper comes out, it’s what I’ve been training for every day so it’s instinct but also planning, I know what I’m going to do.

So when you got told you’d be slumming it at Kingstonian this season, what were your first thoughts? Did you think “Kingstoni-who?”

We played K’s in pre-season and so I knew a bit about them. Palace told me they’re a footballing side. When I went to training I could tell, looking at the players, this wasn’t any old non-league club. The boys have got talent. I had actually told [by Palace at the start of the season] that I wasn’t going to be going anywhere but when the opportunity arose, I thought it’s much better than playing Under-23 games. It’s senior football. That’s what you need as a youngster, to play as many games as you can.

How often are you back at Palace? Do they know how you’re getting on?

My whole schedule’s been a bit mix and match. I live in Brighton. Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going or where I’m needed! But we figure it all out. I’m with K’s on Thursday evenings and every other day I’m either Palace first-team or U23 training. Mark Bright’s been monitoring me while I’ve been there, he’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong, what I’m doing right. He’s a legend in the game and he was a striker too.

Are you happy playing on the wing for us?

I’ve been a centre-forward for the past four years but it’s good to play other positions and educate yourself and learn the whole picture.

What would you say to a fellow Academy player who didn’t know much about Bostik Prem? How would you describe the football?

The competitiveness is completely different. The boys are putting themselves on the line every single week. When you’re a youngster in an Academy, it’s not got that edge, you’re not putting your body on the line in the same way. It’s the best thing, as a youngster, to play for a team needing three points and where, if you lose games, a manager could get sacked, and players go, it’s proper pressure.

You know it’s real football. At Academies, you can make a mistake or have a period of bad form and you’ll get an arm around the shoulder but here it’s real life… here, you get abuse! You get told! That’s real life. It’s cut-throat this game.

You seem to have a good support network. Lots of Dalys on social media…

Ha, yeah. My family are very supportive on twitter. I try and make them proud.

What’s the plan for next season. Do you hope to be back at Palace full-time?

Yes. Or even maybe on loan to a higher club..

K’s in the Vanarama South!


Have you played for the Palace first-team?

I’ve been on the bench. I’ve played pre-season games and friendlies. I was on the bench against Bournemouth in April last year in the Premier league, it’s surreal, it’s everything you work for, to see how it all worked, it drove me to keep going.

Who do you support?

I am a Chelsea fan.

Oh, Ok. Well, the less said about that, the better…

[Daly looks politely bemused as I lecture him on the Kingsmeadow stadium saga]

So you’ve been kicked out?

We like to say “relocated”. How do you find King George’s Field by the way? It’s been lively there the last few weeks.

We’ve done really well there. The pitch is great. The fans are great as well, when they’re there. The boys love it more at home. It’s familiar. We play our best football there.

Do you think flair players get enough protection in the Bostik?

Not enough I don’t think. A challenge will go in and players surround the ref and he will just go by instinct. I don’t mind a challenge. That’s football.

Finally, we enjoyed the post-goal bundle celebrations. Was that your first one?

You don’t get that in Academies either! It’s great. These experiences are new to me.

Published Sunday 23rd December 2018