Yannick Bolasie's unorthodox journey to the top

By John BennettBBC World Service Sport
Bolasie gives insight into tricks

Crystal Palace winger Yannick Bolasie has done it the hard way but he is finally on the verge of achieving his dream.

After life as a semi-professional in non-league football, followed by a spell in Malta, he had to prove himself in League Two, League One and the Championship.

Now, at the age of 24, he is finally ready for his Premier League debut.

"It's been tough but obviously if you want to make it to the top you've got to work hard. Nothing is given to you on a plate," Bolasie told BBC Sport.

"Coming through the ranks has been a life achievement, a dream come true."

Even this season though, the Democratic Republic of Congo international has been forced to be patient. He picked up a hamstring injury just before the start of the season and has only just returned to full training.

"It's been very frustrating," Bolasie said.

"I was expecting to play in the opening match against Tottenham but I got injured on the Tuesday before the weekend. I was really gutted because I wanted to be there for my team and obviously it was the start of the Premier League so I was even more gutted.

"I'm glad I'm finally seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel now."

When Bolasie does get on to the pitch in the Premier League it will be the end of a long journey to the top.

His parents are from DR Congo but he was born in France and grew up in north London.

As a youngster he played for Hillingdon Borough, before his cousin set up a move to Floriana in Malta's top division. Only three foreign players were allowed in the first 11 but Bolasie forced his way into the team.

That gave him the confidence to return to England and he signed for Plymouth after a successful trial.

Then in January 2009, during a loan spell at Barnet, he finally made his Football League debut against Accrington Stanley.

Bolasie eventually became a fans' favourite at Plymouth and after a year with Bristol City, he moved to Crystal Palace, for a season that would end with promotion through the play-off final.

"Where I doubted ever becoming a Premier League player the most was when I was at Bristol City," he said. "I was in and out of the team. It was hard because the way I like to play wasn't the way I was playing when I was getting the chance.

"It made it tough but coming to Palace was a fresh start for me and it's given me a whole heap of confidence."

Bolasie has used his time on the sidelines wisely this season.

"I've been watching every team I can, looking at their full-backs; what they're good at and what they don't like," he said.

"I get to see how my opponents play and what their weaknesses are. Before this season I'd never seen a Premier League match live so it's been a buzz.

"The matches look tough, the teams keep the ball a bit better but for myself as a winger it looks like you have a chance to run at players.

"In the Championship you've probably got two or three players on you but in the Premier League everyone can do their own job so it's one on one.

"I'm very confident I can do well."

He will also have a new supporter this season - in August his partner Kelsey gave birth to a baby boy.

And Bolasie says that even though he is only a few weeks old, little Kaidy is already helping him to become a better player.

"It's given me a different feel to everything. I've just got energy in abundance. I want to do it for him now and my family," he said.

"He's also kept my mind off the injury. The sleepless nights are tough. But he's a bit chilled out like myself and he sleeps a lot so I'm happy."

Crystal Palace have had a tough introduction to Premier League football with defeats against Stoke, Tottenham, Manchester United and Swansea.

But Bolasie says manager Ian Holloway is definitely the right man to keep them up.

"What you see is what you get with the gaffer. He just very enthusiastic, gives the players a lot of energy and different ideas on how to approach things," he said.

"He's helping us in all sorts of different ways. I just can't wait to get back on the pitch and start helping the team and repaying the faith the fans have shown in me.

"I'm buzzing to be at the stage where I'm at."

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