Patrick Vieira has warned Crystal Palace supporters not to expect much from Ebere Eze during the next couple of months in another attempt to preach patience after the playmaker’s return from injury.
The 23-year-old made his first Premier League appearance since May 16 on Saturday when he was brought on in the 60th minute against Aston Villa.
It marked the latest step on Eze’s road to recovery from a serious tear of his Achilles sustained at the end of last season but his new manager has insisted it will be a number of weeks before the former England Under-21 international can reach his previous level.
Vieira said: “I think he is one of the fans’ favourites and he has been doing really good but we need to understand that when a player stays like seven months outside of competition, it will take time for him to get to his best.
“He is working well, he is working hard and every week he is making progress, so this is good. But we should not expect very much from him for the first couple of months.”
It was something of a surprise to see Vieira turn to Eze so early against Villa with the ex-QPR ace introduced to thunderous applause for the final half an hour at Selhurst Park.
He was unable to help Palace get back into the contest with the visitors able to earn a 2-1 win, which ended the Eagles’ seven-match unbeaten run.
Vieira’s side will aim to bounce back at Leeds on Tuesday and while Eze is set to be part of the squad again, a first start of the campaign remains a little way off.
“It was good to have him on the pitch. At the same time we know he has a long way to go but he has made a step forward and for him to be involved in the Premier League it’s good,” the Palace boss added.
“We just have to keep working with him. I did not plan for him to be in the starting XI or not and we just need to see how he goes week after week but he is making good progress so this is good for him but also for the football club.”
Palace will be without vice-captain James McArthur (hamstring) for the trip to Elland Road and centre-back Joachim Andersen is a doubt with the Danish defender set for a scan on Monday to determine the extent of an issue which had previously been described as a “minor injury”.
The return of Eze, who scored four goals and made six assists last season, has provided a lift for everyone at the club though.
Right-back Joel Ward said: “We’re delighted that Eze’s back and it gives the squad a boost now that he’s fully back in, coming onto the playing field as well.
“We know the quality that he brings as a player, as an individual and the spirit that he will lift as well within the dressing room.”
On McArthur, Ward added: “His energy, tenacity, quality and understanding of the game is vital.
“But even to have around the dressing room, he’s still obviously a massive figure for us, even though he’s sidelined. He is making good strides, so hopefully he can continue in that way and he will be back as soon as possible.”