Don't follow Bostock into obscurity! Palace captain warns in-demand teen Zaha
Crystal Palace captain Paddy McCarthy has claimed it would be 'criminal' if Wilfried Zaha was allowed to become another John Bostock.
Zaha caught the eye again on Tuesday night as Palace beat Cardiff 1-0 in their Carling Cup semi-final first leg, to close in on their first major Wembley final since 1990.
The 19-year-old signed a new five-and-a-half-year contract last month following a man-of-the-match display in the Eagles' shock quarter-final victory at Manchester United.
In demand: Wilfried Zaha was once again the star of Crystal Palace's show as they beat Cardiff in their Carling Cup semi-final first leg
But that has not prevented the winger being linked with the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle, QPR and Fulham, while Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp was among the spectators at Selhurst Park on Tuesday.
McCarthy believes Dougie Freedman's Palace is the perfect place for Zaha to continue to learn his trade, with Bostock the ideal example of a young star who left the club only to be given almost no first-team opportunities at Spurs.
'Every week you come and see the improvement in these kids, and it comes from upstairs,' McCarthy said. 'They are being managed the right way and it would be criminal for these lads to move on too early in their careers.
Head boy: Anthony Gardner scored the only goal of the game
'They have the right man in charge now that won't hold them on too long. If he feels like they need to move on then he will do it, but he won't let them leave too early either as he has seen it with the likes of John Bostock and so forth.'
However, McCarthy did little to play down Zaha's qualities, the 28-year-old adding: 'He can go as far as he wants in the game, Wilfried. He is a special talent. He is probably the most naturally gifted individual I have ever come across in my career, and I have seen a lot.'
Zaha has every incentive to stay ahead of the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final in two weeks' time.
'He signed a new contract which shows his commitment to the club,' McCarthy said. 'I'm sure he wants to be involved in the second leg and in this fantastic journey we're on.
'I think he can see we are improving as a team and growing as a club as well, and I'm sure anybody in their right mind would want to be a part of that.'
McCarthy admits he is already dreaming of leading out his side at Wembley.
'Damn right,' said the former Leicester player, who climbed off his sick bed to help Palace keep a clean sheet against Cardiff. 'That is the ultimate dream. Not many players get to play at Wembley.
'We have a tough second leg at Cardiff – but we know the goal at the end of it would be the ultimate, to get to Wembley.'
That would represent a remarkable turnaround for a club that were in administration two years ago and only avoided relegation from the npower Championship on the final day of that season.
Rare appearance: John Bostock has made little impact at Tottenham
'You aren't getting paid from one month to the next, and it's not nice,' McCarthy said. 'We all stuck together in administration, nobody dropped their heads – we all fought tooth and nail to keep the club in the Championship.
'Then along came the new owners, who are Palace men at heart, supporters since they were boys. You couldn't ask for better owners in charge.
'Then you have Dougie, who was here as a player and has seen it all – then Tony Popovic, Lennie Lawrence, who have an affiliation with the club.'
Cardiff midfielder Darcy Blake warned Palace his side would exploit their bigger pitch in the second leg after struggling to make a breakthrough at Selhurst Park.
'It's half-time,' he said. 'We'll take them back to our place and show them what we can do and finish our chances.'