Zaha thanks Palace boss Freedman for award

Croydon Guardian: Happy Couple: Young player of the year Wilfried Zaha, right, with manager Dougie Freedman Happy Couple: Young player of the year Wilfried Zaha, right, with manager Dougie Freedman

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha hailed manager Dougie Freedman after being named the npower young player of the year at the Football League Awards last night.

The 19-year-old received the award at the gala ceremony at The Brewery in London ahead of Lewis Dunk of Brighton & Hove Albion and Matt Phillips of Blackpool.

But there was disappointment for Jonathan Williams, Darren Ambrose and Freedman who missed out on the apprentice of the year, goal of the year and outstanding managerial achievement accolades.

Zaha has been in startling form for Palace this season, scoring seven times, and has established himself in the first team having broke through in the last campaign.

His rise was rewarded with a call-up to England U21s last month and Zaha thanked Freedman for the progress he has made.

"Dougie has been a really positive influence on my progress," he said.

"Because he used to be a striker he has provided me with advice about my all round game - my defensive play, as well as my attacking game, is coming on really well.

"Based on what I have achieved this season I thought I had a good chance of winning.

"To go from a whole season where I scored just one goal in 44 matches to this, netting seven or so this year has been good for me.

"I really feel that my game is getting better with every match."

When assessing the category, judges looked at Football League players that are either under 21 years of age, or turned 21 during the 2011/12 season and looked to recognise players they felt had made the most significant contribution and impact in their respective first team this season.

Coventry's Gael Bigirimana won the Championship apprentice of the year, Cardiff's Peter Whittingham won goal of the year and Gus Poyet took the outstanding managerial achievement award.

"The Football League Awards 2012 has given us another opportunity to celebrate success at League clubs both on and off the pitch," said chairman of The Football League Greg Clarke.

"It gives us the chance to reward those who have demonstrated commitment beyond the call of duty or achieved great things.

"I would like to offer my congratulations to all the winners and all those who were nominated."

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