Sam Allardyce rubbishes reports of Tottenham's interest in Wilfried Zaha
Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce has dismissed reports of Wilfried Zaha being a summer transfer target for Tottenham, and has called for his "genius" winger to be given greater protection by referees.
The 24-year-old was again Palace's finest player in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Watford, when he regularly stretched the visitors' defence and won the free-kick which led to Troy Deeney's own goal.
The victory was their third from three -- they had most recently won 2-0 at West Brom when Zaha also scored -- and has come at a time when the winger is again being linked with Spurs.
Allardyce, however, is more concerned with the on-field attention Zaha is receiving from opposition defenders, believing he is targeted as much as Eden Hazard, even if he has told the player to recognise it as a compliment.
"Spurs were always mentioned because agents or somebody decided to stir the pot," said the 62-year-old manager. "We all know who stirs the pot behind the scenes even though they deny it, but we know they do it.
"He gets terrible treatment off the opposition because he's so skilful. Maybe he needs a bit more protection from the referees.
"He's got to realise that's down to his genius ability that these lads can't cope, and because they can't cope they've got to end up fouling him. He can riddle past two or three, his feet are that good.
"He gets kicked as much as Hazard. Keep going Wilf, it's a compliment to you when people can't cope with your ability and have to foul you.
"Wilf, smile. Sometimes he doesn't smile enough because he doesn't realise how important this game is and how enjoyable it is. Sometimes he looks a bit miserable so I say, 'Wilf, come on lad, you're the luckiest.'"
Allardyce also admits their recent winning run, which has left Palace four points clear of the relegation zone, has taken some of the weight of his shoulders.
He said: "I'm feeling a lot more relieved than I was and whenever I get a victory, and they haven't been that often since I've been here, I do make sure I enjoy them.
"The confidence is growing so if we can carry on getting the results against [the teams around us in the table], that means it won't be beyond us to try and nick a point here against one of the big six that we've still got.
"It's a bit daunting with Man United away, Man City away, Liverpool away, Arsenal at home and Spurs. Those have to be bonus points for us if we get them.
"The other games [at home to Burnley, Leicester and Hull] are going to be critical for us to try and get three points."
Watford's Craig Cathcart was recalled to their starting XI and played at right-back, opposite Zaha.
He revealed captain Deeney apologised afterwards for the own goal that cost them a point, and acknowledged the importance of their coming fixtures against Sunderland and West Brom.
"Troy apologised, but it was one of those things," he said. "He wanted to apologise but he has got nothing to apologise for; he gives his best out there on the pitch.
"The next two games will be massive for us and hopefully we can pick up some points in those."
Of Zaha, the 28-year-old added: "I am sure he will go on to be a top player.
"He has that potential to match those top players. He is almost unplayable."