England must learn from Wilfried Zaha’s switch to the Ivory Coast and “love” and nurture prospects from smaller clubs, according to Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish.
Zaha, 24, played two friendlies for England and represented them at age group levels but reverted to the country of his birth in time for January’s African Nations Cup.
England manager Gareth Southgate has pledged to focus on players who are “desperate to play for England” as he addresses the dual-nationality question.
But Parish declared himself devastated to see a “ludicrous” talent slip away and called for a fresh approach.
“The whole England set-up gave Wilfried no love and it is a shame that we lost him,” he told the Times. ” Wilfried was waiting and waiting for that call.
“It is devastating for us as we always thought we would see him in an England shirt. We need to learn our lessons. You would not see Brazil let a player like that go.”
The proportion of English-qualified players in Premier League line-ups hovers around the one-third mark and Parish warned that those who do break through must be appreciated.
He said: “If we constantly neglect these kids, as their face does not fit or they are not maturing at the rate we want them to, then you can’t tell the Premier League that we have to have more and more English players playing.
“It has a lot to do with the less glamorous clubs. Every now and then, a club like Palace throws up a gem. Our gems do tend to be a bit rough around the edges when they start out, they need to be honed.
“Anybody who watched Wilfried will tell you some of the things he does are ludicrous. Do we not want that? I can’t believe there was not a role for Wilfried at England.”
A statement issued by Zaha’s agent Will Salthouse on Tuesday took issue with questions over his passion and insisted the player had never set a deadline for an England call-up – the “disappearing egg-timer” referenced by Southgate on Monday.
And Parish took aim at former England defender Danny Mills’ suggestion on Tuesday that the winger took “the easy way out” by switching allegiance.
“What is easier, travelling thousands of miles every time you have to play a game?” he said. “Put England in a knockout game against Ivory Coast and it is not going to be 4-0 to England, is it? They will give England a game.”