Though Crystal Palace have soared towards safety since Thomas Ince’s eye-catching January arrival, the loan deal hasn’t made the impact that most anticipated.
Having arrived at Selhurst Park with a reputation as perhaps the Football League’s outstanding talent, the 22-year-old has been afforded just four starts and hasn’t featured at all in the recent three-match winning run.
However, the former Liverpool youngster’s desirability hasn’t been damaged by his four weeks of tracksuit-wearing and star jump-showcasing on the sidelines judging by reports that both Tottenham and Everton are plotting moves.
Tony Pulis wants him to stay at Crystal Palace, insisting that his lack of involvement owes more to the fine form of wingers Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon than any misgivings over the Blackpool loanee’s ability.
While his bench stint might suggest otherwise, Palace is probably the best place for him right now, rather than stepping up to a top-six club too soon and getting lost in the shuffle.
It is understandable in a relegation slugfest that Pulis has favoured two already-acclimatised players over a newcomer, but he has hinted that Puncheon will be pinched this summer, which would clear the path for Ince to emerge as first choice.
The former Stoke boss has been effusive enough in his praise of the wide man to indicate that he genuinely has a long-term plan for him.
He labelled Ince “absolutely fantastic”, forecast that he will be “a top Premier League player without a shadow of a doubt”, described his attitude as “fantastic” and admitted that he was an instant hit in the dressing room.
As his alternatives are to rival Steven Pienaar, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady for a spot at Everton or join a Spurs side not even sure who will be in charge, another year at Selhurst seems a sensible option.
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