It has been a tale of two contrasting seasons so far for Jordan Ayew at Crystal Palace.
The Ghanaian international forward joined the Eagles in the summer of 2018 on a season-long loan from Swansea City, following the Welsh side’s relegation from the Premier League.
During his season-long loan with the Eagles in 2018/19, Ayew made 20 appearances in the Premier League for Roy Hodgson’s side, including 14 starts.
He only netted twice during his time with Palace last season though, including one goal in the Premier League and one in the FA Cup.
However, he joined Palace in a permanent move back in July last year, with the forward returning to Palace off the back of an impressive Africa Cup of Nations tournament, where he notched two goals in Ghana’s four games in the competition.
He has since gone from strength to strength at Palace, scoring eight goals in 30 appearances, making him the Eagles’ top goalscorer so far in the 2019/20 campaign.
He has earned plenty of praise from fans, his team-mates, and his manager alike for his displays so far this season, with Ayew producing some standout moments in the Eagles’ season, including his stunning solo goal against West Ham and winning goals against Aston Villa, Brighton, and Watford.
Ayew has played upfront and on the wing at different stages of the season, keeping the likes of Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend out of the team on occasions.
And his performances have repaid the faith shown in him by Palace boss Roy Hodgson, who has been full of praise for the 28-year-old’s effort, dedication and endeavour throughout his time in south London.
Indeed, last season when Ayew was struggling for goals at Palace – including not scoring in his first 14 appearances for the Eagles – Hodgson defended the Ghanaian and praised his attitude.
After Ayew’s first goal in a Palace shirt, in the 2-0 win at Wolves on January 2, 2019, Hodgson spoke of his relief for the forward, and how much he had deserved his reward.
“He’s done a lot of good work and did a lot of good work before the goal with his defending, his stretching of the defence and his hold-up play, but as a forward, you do need goals,” he said.
“People are only going to regard you as a good forward on that and he’s had to wait a while for one, but if anyone deserved the goal tonight it was him and he took it extremely well.
“Jordan has worked so hard and it was fitting he could score the goal that has eluded him and us for so long.”
His only other goal last season came three days later in the FA Cup third-round tie with Grimsby Town, with Ayew breaking the League Two side’s resistance in the 86th minute after the ten-man Mariners had held out for 83 minutes following the early dismissal of Andrew Fox at Selhurst Park.
Ayew only made nine appearances for Palace after that in the 2018/19 season, with Michy Batshuayi often preferred upfront in the second half of the season after joining on loan from Chelsea, while Christian Benteke also came back into the side after injury.
However, Hodgson had still seen enough to want to sign Ayew on a permanent deal, with the former Aston Villa man becoming Palace’s first summer signing when he joined from Swansea in July last year.
Upon him signing for Palace on a three-year deal, Hodgson said: “We are delighted to secure Jordan’s services for another three seasons at Crystal Palace. He has proved himself as a dedicated and hard-working member of the squad, and certainly played his part in the club securing its highest ever Premier League points tally in the last campaign.”
His arrival was not met with much fanfare from supporters though, after an underwhelming season in terms of goals during his loan spell.
However, his performances this season have certainly altered opinion among many supporters, with Ayew becoming a firm fans’ favourite with his contribution so far for the Eagles this term.
It helped that he scored crucial early goals this season, including the opener in Palace’s first-ever Premier League win against Manchester United back in August, which he then followed up with winning goals against Aston Villa and West Ham, and a fourth goal of the campaign in October in the 2-2 draw against Arsenal.
But it was not just his goals, with fans appreciating his all-round effort and work rate, singing Ayew’s praises after several man-of-the-match displays in the first half of the season.
He has also produced some eye-catching moments, with the winning strike against West Ham at Selhurst Park on Boxing Day being the highlight of his – and Palace’s – season for many supporters.
Ayew has since added further goals against Arsenal, Brighton and Watford, moving him on to eight for the season and five ahead of Patrick van Aanholt and Wilfried Zaha, who have both scored three for the Eagles in 2019/20.
His goals have been important for Palace this season, with his strikes helping the Eagles earn 12 points from turning draws into victories and defeats into draws.
And that has made Palace’s outlay of around £2.5million to sign the Ghanaian look a very smart piece of business, with the Eagles sitting comfortably in 11th position with 39 points from 29 games, exactly 12 points above the relegation zone.
But while his goals have seen Ayew grab the headlines more often for Palace this season, Hodgson insists that Palace looked beyond his goal record when signing him, with the Eagles boss appreciating what Ayew has offered the team in terms of his all-round performances.
“Last year he did a great job on loan for us for the year,” Hodgson said recently after Ayew’s seventh goal of the season in the 1-0 win at Brighton.
“We made that loan permanent at the start of the season because we knew what he is, we knew what he could do.
“Of course, last year he didn’t score many goals and that was something which bothered him and I suppose was a factor for us. Are we going to get the goals out of him that we need? We knew what else he gives – but is he going to give us goals as well?
“That’s what he’s started to do this year. He’s scored a large proportion of our goals and he’s still contributing to the team in so many other ways.”
Meanwhile, Ayew himself has thanked his manager and the players he is working alongside, adding that they have played a big part in what he has achieved so far this season.
Speaking to Premier League Productions after scoring the only goal of the game in Palace’s 1-0 win against Watford in March, Ayew said: “The most important thing is the teammates and the manager are giving me the freedom to play and to express myself and that’s what is making me do all the things I’m doing today.
“I thank the gaffer because the gaffer has faith in me and the staff and the club – [Steve] Parish and Dougie [Freedman] and Mark Bright so today is a good day for me and I just need to keep going and keep working hard.”
Palace fans will certainly hope that is the case when football returns.