Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been learning about Crystal Palace’s rivalry with Brighton by listening to Wilfried Zaha.
Palace head to The Amex on Tuesday evening in the first ever Premier League fixture between the two teams – and their first meeting since their bitter Championship play-off semi-final in 2013.
Despite being one of English football’s lesser-known rivalries it is the most intense of those involving either team, and Loftus-Cheek already recognises the importance of victory, largely because of a player he has also combined so well with on the pitch.
Loftus-Cheek, who scored Palace’s equaliser in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Stoke, explained: “A few of the players have been educating me on the rivalry.
“We were at a signing the other day and Wilf was getting interviewed and the guy said ‘how much do you hate Brighton on a scale of one-to-10 and Wilf goes ’11!’ – so that tells me everything.
“I didn’t even know, so when Wilf said that I was like ‘okay, they don’t like each other then’, so I’m looking forward to playing in it.
“We need to take this momentum (from the last-minute winning goal against Stoke) into Brighton, hopefully play better there and get the win. The team are in good spirits.”
Saturday’s goal was Loftus-Cheek’s first since his summer arrival on loan from Chelsea and also significantly contributed to the first win he has been involved in at Palace.
Those highs proved his latest after his impressive form led to his senior England debut, when he similarly impressed, and to suggestions Chelsea had made a mistake in allowing him to leave.
The 21-year-old has further demonstrated his versatility by impressing on the right of manager Roy Hodgson’s four-man midfield – but, asked if he expected to wait so long for his first win with Palace, he responded: “No, not at all.
“You never know what happens in football and obviously we didn’t have the best start. But I am learning to fight every day with this team.
“I’m glad I came to Palace because I am getting the game time I wanted, I am also learning to fight with some good players.
“It was good for me to get off the mark and hopefully there will be some more. I feel like a first-team Premier League player at Palace.
“I’m really enjoying it, playing every week. It’s a fantastic stadium. I just love playing right now and that’s why you start playing football anyway, because you enjoy it, you love it – and I’m happy right now.
“I’m focusing on how I can develop and on my game understanding and learning. Working hard in training, listening to Roy and the staff, I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I’m still like a novice.
“I’m sure I’ll end up in the midfield somewhere, but wherever I am, I’m enjoying it right now.”
After Tuesday’s contest, Palace face West Brom, Bournemouth, Watford, Leicester and Swansea in a potentially season-defining run.