Published: 00:00, 01 February 2018
Maybe it’s just as well Crystal Palace fielded their kids against Maidstone.
Andre Coker was one of the youth-team players given a game by then-Eagles boss Frank de Boer last July.
It caused a stir as a record crowd of 4,000 turned up at the Gallagher expecting to see Palace’s Premier League stars.
But without de Boer’s U-turn, Maidstone may never have found out about forward Coker, who’s joined on loan until the end of the season.
Coker recalled when de Boer, later sacked after only four games, told the youngsters they would be playing.
He said: “I remember the manager actually said to us, ‘They’re expecting the first team, they’re going to be disappointed but put on a show or at least make it worthwhile.’
“As a team we went down and tried to make it as enjoyable and competitive as possible and we ended up winning that game 3-1.
“I don’t know if I was actually in his plans because he had a short spell there but I trained under him a lot of the time and did get to develop under him.”
The Gallagher experience stayed with Coker, who jumped at the chance to join Maidstone on loan.
He’s in the final year of his Palace contract and sees the move as key to his future.
Coker said: “It was a good game, a great atmosphere and there were so many people there it was ridiculous.
“I just liked the feel of it and that sparked the idea in my mind of wanting to go on loan but obviously I couldn’t at that time.
“I was playing academy level for the under-23s and you could just see it was a step up.
“It’s easy to play in front of 20-odd parents but when you start playing in front of a bigger crowd, you’re being scrutinised for every mistake you make.
“Come December I was looking to go out on loan and I wanted to see what my options were.
“As soon as I knew there was an offer from Maidstone, I jumped at it and pushed the other options away.
“My current contract ends at the end of this season so it’s make or break, it’s down to how I do here.
“If I do well then hopefully I can bounce on but I feel this is the step I need.”
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