Alan Pardew said his decision to leave Wilfried Zaha out of Crystal Palace’s starting lineup against Bournemouth owed to a belief he lacked focus.
He praised the forward, however, for overcoming his desire to leave for Tottenham and inspiring their comeback in the 1-1 draw that earned Palace’s first point of the Premier League season.
Zaha, 23, on Thursday asked Pardew to allow him to join Spurs, resulting in both the manager and chairman Steve Parish insisting they expected him to remain at the club.
Joshua King’s fine 11th-minute finish gave visitors Bournemouth a deserved lead but after a flat first-half performance, Zaha’s 66th-minute introduction inspired both his team and Palace’s supporters, resulting in Scott Dann’s stoppage-time headed goal.
“I made the decision on Friday [to drop Zaha],” Pardew said. “He’s a young lad, he’s been to Man United, he’s come here and done terrifically for us. Brilliant, our player of the year and for me, I would play him every game.
“Trust me, I didn’t want to leave him out, but I had to understand the pressures that were on him as well. He had a very disruptive week and I thought it was only fair to him to see if we could get through the game, perhaps even without him, but we needed him and he was spot on for us.
“He was terrific when he came on and he showed why the chairman made the statement he did [about Zaha staying].”
Asked if he wished he had started the forward, Pardew responded: “I suppose in hindsight when you’re only drawing at home. I can think of three or four things I would have liked to have done, particularly in the first half.
“But you have to use your experience and he couldn’t have done any more for us in the period he was on the pitch and that’s all I can ask for.
“He didn’t take being a substitute badly at all. He understood that it was a disruptive week for him.
“It wasn’t a punishment. It was just me saying, ‘You’re probably not focused, let me leave you out on this one.’ His actions have been terrific for us and it shows what a good character he is.”