John Salako has had a successful playing career over a spell of 19 years. He featured for eight clubs as well as earning the right to play for England.
With the Premier League returning just over a week ago, Salako believes it was the right time to come back:
“We’ve longed for it. I was very much an advocate of getting football back.
“If anyone could do it safely I knew it was us, the Premier League, the Championship. We have got great staff and people in and around the grounds. The clubs are really well run now with the doctors and physiotherapists, the way it has been organised has been tremendous.
“The games have been fantastic, much better than I thought they would be. The crowd sound, they have put a lot into that and I think that has been a massive plus and at times when you are watching it on the television you forget that there isn’t a crowd there.”
There is understandably concerns for Premier League players returning back so quickly, but Salako recognises that circumstances have chanced since his playing days:
“In our day we would finish the season and we would have three to four weeks off. You would come back pre-season and you would need to build up a six-week programme to be fit enough to start playing.
“ These guys, however, a lot of them have gyms at home, tread machines and bikes, which would have kept them fit. You are going to see a lot of muscular injuries that won’t be able to be prevented, as well as the heat and going straight back into that intensity of playing is part and parcel of the game.
“They are really at a level where they are proper athletes. The diet, nutrition and the psychological side of it and the training programme are fantastic and second to none. Overall, I’m delighted that they decided to go ahead and play it, and it’s going really well.”
Salako joined Crystal Palace at a young age, and has never looked back:
“It was fantastic, growing up and coming through the ranks at Palace then getting into the first team, getting to the cup final and then we finished third in the Premier League and you look back and think wow, that team was a damn good side.”
Salako also represented England and won five caps in his playing days.
“I got into the England side and went off to Australasia and unfortunately came back that winter and I ruptured my knee. I had two years of three major operations. I’ve managed to play 600 games and to have a half decent career, barring those injuries, I would have liked to have achieved a lot more, but life sometimes doesn’t work out that way.”
Apart from playing for Palace, Salako went on to manage the club for a season:
“I joined Palace just before my 14th birthday, and I was there until I was 26. I absolutely loved the club, it’s in my heart, that’s home for me and I coached at the under 13’s and 16’s level. Then, I ended up as first team coach, which once again was just incredible as having been out of the game for so long applying for loads of jobs and not even getting an interview.
“I was very motivated and ambitious as I wanted to be a manager. I done my coaching badges and having that opportunity to go back in and be first team manager was incredible. We stayed up, got to the cup final, then I ended up being squeezed out, as they thought they could improve in different areas.”
Palace are thriving at the moment under Roy Hodgson, and has nothing but praise for the former England manager:
“We saw Roy bow out of the England job and we sort of thought well maybe that’s the end for Roy.
“He’s been an incredible coach around the world and has done so much. Roy came in at a time when everyone had written Palace off. He managed to keep them up and then every season he has added and built on pretty much a shoestring budget and it’s been actually incredible, and so I couldn’t give Roy enough praise of what he has done with the tools he has had.”
Black Lives Matter has been a very important message in our lives at the moment. This is also something Salako feels very strongly about:
“It’s so disgusting what’s been happening to black people for so long and they’ve been persecuted and abused and the way that the police force do target and kill black people is disgusting and there is that racial bias through England, Europe and it’s disgusting in America, it really is so bad.
“What we saw with George Floyd is just beyond disgraceful and I think enough is enough, and that plane that flew over the Burnley game the other night saying white lives matter.
“I’ve heard that said a few times and really it’s quiet disheartening and heart-breaking, because it’s just missing the point as there is so much brutality and there is so much hype perpetrated towards black people just because of the colour of their skin and they really are racially down trotters. I’ve been lucky not to get massive amounts of it[racial abuse], but I can imagine people like Ian Wright and people who come from Inner London and I know they have a lot more and have to deal with it on a daily basis. Finally, I am hoping that we are all going to deal with it and take a big step forward and what the Premier League now are doing is hopefully going to have a massive impact.”
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