Crystal Palace caretaker boss Paddy McCarthy has full faith in 19-year-old goalkeeper Joe Whitworth should the former Eagles ball boy be required to make just his second Premier League appearance against title-chasing Arsenal on Sunday.
Former Palace captain and under-21s manager McCarthy was appointed to take charge against the Gunners in place of Patrick Vieira, whose sacking was announced on Friday morning ahead of the trip to his former club.
Whitworth was an emergency call-up ahead of Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Brighton, where the Palace academy graduate’s performance was a welcome bright spot in what turned out to be Vieira’s last game in charge.
“I thought he was excellent,” McCarthy told the club’s official website.
“Not surprisingly, he’s such a great kid with bags of confidence, bags of quality as well. He is an England (youth) international, he’s played in big games throughout the course of his young career, and there’s none bigger than Palace against Brighton away from home.
“He showed everybody what he was capable of so we were delighted with his performance, and delighted that he is another academy product playing in our first team.”
Whitworth, at the age of 19 years and 15 days old, became Palace’s youngest-ever Premier League keeper when he stepped in for first choice Vicente Guaita, who picked up a hamstring injury in training ahead of the Brighton trip.
With Sam Johnstone still nursing a calf injury and Jack Butland and Remi Matthews on loan at Manchester United and St Johnstone respectively, all eyes turned to Whitworth, who had warmed the first-team bench 10 times before his first start.
Guaita and Johnstone’s fitness remains unknown ahead of the Arsenal encounter, but should Whitworth find himself back in action- and under two different bosses in his first two league games – he will likely be grateful to find McCarthy’s familiar face in the dugout.
McCarthy said: “The pathway has always been there: Tyrick (Mitchell), Clyney (Nathaniel Clyne), Wilfried (Zaha), and then Joe the other night against Brighton.
“It just shows that the pathway is there for these young lads. Also, Joe will give the rest of the boys across the road (at Copers Cope training ground) the confidence that they can go and perform on this stage.”