Eze does it! After a series of setbacks, Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze fully deserves England nod
‘Anything that’s worth having doesn’t come easy,’ explained Chris Ramsey, Eberechi Eze’s former mentor at QPR.
Eze, 24, will no doubt agree having overcome all manner of obstacles en route to a hard-earned first England call-up.
Being released four times, the doubters at QPR, a serious achilles injury cruelly suffered on the day he last discovered he had been selected by England — Crystal Palace star Eze has sure been tested.
But thanks to the religious Eze’s faith and unwavering self-belief, he has battled through it all to become one of the Premier League’s most entertaining talents.
Before he had even kicked a ball professionally, Eze had suffered enough setbacks to dispirit any young hopeful — being let go by Arsenal, Fulham, Reading and Millwall.
Eberechi Eze has overcome significant hardships on his way to his deserved England call-up
But he continued to chase his dreams and his agent — ex-Tottenham youngster Matt Warner — recommended Eze to his former Spurs coach Ramsey.
Speaking to Mail Sport in 2021, Eze described just how crucial his time and some of his coaches at QPR — Ramsey, Andy Impey and Paul Hall — were to the player he had become.
‘They put that belief back in myself that I had when I was young, at Arsenal,’ Eze said. ‘Once I had that in the Under 23s, I felt unstoppable.
‘It wasn’t until I got to QPR that I got that click with those guys and I started to unlock new levels I didn’t know I had in terms of my work rate, running stats, stuff like that.’
Ramsey, QPR’s technical director, said: ‘He is an outstanding person. He was very engaging, willing to learn.
‘Most flair players now tend to think that flair is enough but myself, Andy and Paul were able to connect with him on different levels at different times and put our individual input into trying to get him to unlock what he had.
‘We looked at somebody who was really desperate to be given some patience, which is what you really need in player development and also just a bit of care, though I’m not saying he didn’t get that at his previous places.’
QPR’s Chris Ramsey was one of Eze’s mentors as he was rising through the football world
During his trial, a week-long camp at Lilleshall with QPR’s Under 18s and reserves, Eze’s ability, touch and poise were quickly apparent.
His decision-making, passing and physicality required some polishing but Ramsey recalls how ‘it was just a matter of patience’.
‘He worked hard,’ Ramsey explained. ‘We used to do afternoon clinics after training with him and a lot of other players. There were seven or eight who had a good work ethic and pushed each other.
‘He was always one of the first ones there to work hard on his set-pieces and finishing. He was totally engaged in what we did and pushed himself to where he is now. He used his adversity to make sure he was at the clinics and trained properly.
‘People see his finishing but look at the passing. It’s sublime. Did you see the ball he played for Palace’s first goal against Fulham? He’s actually a better assister. It was just about working on trying to unlock the skills he had.
‘His outstanding personality has allowed him to do that. He will always pick the phone up, even just for a chat. Phone him and he’ll always ring you back.
‘I think he still keeps in contact with his old Under 23s group. He’s not one of those that will say, “Oh, now I’m up here”. I’m sure if any of them text or phone he will pick up.
‘Although he’s a grown man now, there are no airs and graces about him — it’s still like speaking to the boy who came in on trial. He’s still willing to listen to bits that will make him better and any top player, that’s what they do. They don’t close their mind to things.’
Eze found that joining QPR was beneficial to him as he found a platform towards bigger things
Eze joining QPR was mutually beneficial — he finally found the platform he had long been looking for while Rangers needed promising players whose development they could accelerate.
Five months after joining, Eze made his first-team debut in January 2017 and by the time he left in 2020 for Palace, he had become the best player in the Championship.
But Ramsey added: ‘It’s not a smooth story. When he first got in the QPR team, there were a lot of doubters around the place. People who didn’t think he was going to make it were saying, “He doesn’t run, he doesn’t tackle”.
‘Everyone sees him now but nobody realises the absolute stick he used to get from people. There was a season where he was getting absolutely slaughtered on social media and it was actually affecting him.’
Alongside his family, in Ramsey, Hall, Impey and director of football Les Ferdinand, Eze had a support network at QPR who thought the world of him and were able to reassure him and go into battle for him when needed. With their help, he flourished and earned his move to Palace.
Eze was all set to be rewarded for his form during his first season at Selhurst Park with inclusion in Southgate’s provisional Euro 2020 squad, the notification coming through on the same May day that he suffered an achilles injury in training.
Eze’s re-emergence as a talent has coincided with Roy Hodgson managing Crystal Palace
That was another big hurdle but his immediate response was to ask the medics treating him the quickest time someone had previously recovered from an achilles rupture and aim to beat it.
He succeeded, returning to training around four months later after following every step of his rehab process to the letter. There was no moaning about or dwelling on his plight — only a positivity and rock-solid belief that it was just a case of when he would get back to his best, and not if.
Roy Hodgson’s Palace return has coincided with that re-emergence of Eze — six goals and one assist coming under the veteran manager. And now an England call-up.
Ramsey said: ‘As much as he’s a great footballer, he’s a great person and if you look at where he’s going to be and what he’s going to do, he deserves it. Really deserves it.’