Roy Hodgson is set to welcome Wilfried Zaha back for Crystal Palace’s trip to Tottenham on Sunday and says if the attacker decides against taking a knee it is because he wants to bring further change in the fight against racism.
The Ivory Coast international has missed a month of football with a hamstring injury and during his stint on the sidelines spoke at the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit on February 18.
Zaha described the gesture, which takes place before every Premier League fixture, as “degrading” and admitted: “It’s becoming something that we just do now and that’s not enough for me. I’m not going to take the knee.”
At the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend, the Eagles’ top goalscorer could get his first chance to “stand tall” and his manager believes the 28-year-old is well within his rights.
“It has nothing to do with him not wishing to respect what taking the knee means,” Hodgson said.
“Wilf will also respect what the rest of the team want to do and if the rest of the team want to take a knee, he will happily respect that as well.
“I think the point he was making for the authorities is, ‘we have been taking the knee for a long time, is there something else we can do because I am a bit concerned taking the knee isn’t enough to bring about the change I would like to bring about’ and it is a personal opinion he has.
“We respect it 100 per cent and fully. I would be very disappointed if people suggest him not taking the knee means he doesn’t have feelings about it like everybody else.
“It is quite the opposite really. You have to suggest his feelings are so strong he wants to bring about even further change to make certain we don’t have to suffer this abuse which has struck us recently with Patrick Van Aanholt being abused after the game with Manchester United.”
Palace defender Van Aanholt was the latest footballer to suffer racist abuse on social media during the week when an Instagram user called him a monkey in a direct message on Wednesday.
The Dutch full-back revealed the abuse with a screenshot on Twitter and captioned his tweet ‘why we kneel’ hours after the goalless draw at home to Man United.
Hodgson praised his reaction to the incident, adding: “I spoke to him yesterday and he dealt with it with great maturity. He understands this is part of a world we live in.
“We all condemn it and I think more and more is luckily being done to try and eradicate it or eradicate it to the best level you can get to. I fully back the initiatives that are going on and now being brought to Government level.
“It is good to know people like Patrick are sensible enough and care enough about the problem to make certain it gets brought to the attention of the authorities. And unfortunately that is all that can be done.
“The players who are getting this abuse, we would love it to stop but we haven’t been able to completely stamp it out as yet.
“We constantly condemn it, but it is still there and all they can do perhaps is make certain the authorities know because the next step is trying to get in touch with the people who are doing it and punishing them accordingly.”
Nine-goal Zaha is back after missing the last five matches, but Palace are without several players for the trip across the capital.
James McCarthy picked up a groin injury during the midweek stalemate and joins Nathaniel Clyne, James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho, Tyrick Mitchell and James McArthur on the treatment table.
Hodgson said: “The ones that are not fit, I don’t think we are going to see any of them until after the international break is over.”