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Crystal Palace academy director hails "fantastic" season

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CRYSTAL Palace Academy director Gary Issott insists the new U21 development league has been crucial in the development of his young Eagles.

"This season has been a fantastic experience for everyone at the club," he said.

"We've had the chance to play some good teams at some great venues.

"The new rules have helped bridge the gap between youth and first-team football.

"The standard of these games have improved dramatically and the new format allows players to showcase their ability to a wider audience."

The revolutionary three-tiered elite competition is ranked on academy status, which has seen Palace pitted against the best in the Premier League.

"The trip to St James' Park where we were up against the likes of Gabriel Obertan has been a brilliant learning curve," said Issott.

"In recent weeks we've beaten table-topping Reading and our 4-3 away victory against Manchester City was a particular highlight."

Despite losing 1-0 against Bolton in their final home game of the season, Issott was keen to draw attention to a number of promising performances.

"It's great to see the younger players playing well," said Issott. "These boys are perhaps playing above their normal ability range so it is great to see them thriving on this stage."

Issott reserved special applause for 17-year-old midfielder Hiram Boateng, who manager Ian Holloway recently declared would be part of his pre-season plans in the summer.

"I thought it was the best game Boateng's ever played for the U21 side," said Issott. "He was strong, commanding and a real driving force in the middle of the pitch."

England U17 international Reise Allassani was another player who caught the eye.

"Reise has great balance and technique on the ball." said Issott. "When he drifts inside, he can influence the game a lot more. We just have to work with him to use the ball better and play those killer balls."

The changes have not only benefited the young starlets, with first-team players Stuart O'Keefe, Darcy Blake and Aaron Wilbraham using the competitive games to work their way back into the senior squad.

Issott concluded that the atmosphere around the club has been great and the manager insists a play-off position has been a huge improvement from the past few years.

"If you had offered the club a play-off place at the start of the season we would have grabbed it with both hands," he said.

Crystal Palace academy director hails


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