Scott Banks admits it felt ‘surreal’ to be the subject of praise from Patrick Vieira following a promising pre-season with Crystal Palace.
And that has only inspired the ex-Dundee United kid to impress the French footballing legend further.
Vieira took the reins at Palace during the summer and swiftly set about revamping the personnel and style at Selhurst Park following Roy Hodgson’s departure.
Following a concerted effort to get into the shape of his life, Banks immediately played his way into the new gaffer’s plans.
Vieira described the former Dunfermline loan star as ‘a really smart kid’ and suggested he was more than capable of being part of the Eagles’ first-team group this term.
— Owen J Brown (@OwenJamesBrown) October 2, 2021
Banks was a regular during pre-season — scoring against Reading — and was on the bench for Palace’s season opener at Chelsea before a slight injury disrupted his progress.
“There are off-season training programmes and the club were really pushing me to come back stronger and fitter,” Banks told Courier Sport. “That’s what I did and I think I impressed during pre-season.
“That [praise] was surreal! It’s hard to sum up just how amazing that is to hear from someone like that.
“You need to come back down to earth when you hear comments like that from the manager, especially given what he has achieved in his career.
“He [Vieira] is very demanding and he’s bringing a new style of play to the club. With the last few performances, you can see how well he is doing.
“There are a lot of new faces, talented players and it’s a brilliant place to be.
“Could you ask for a better character to be around the club to start this new phase?
“But, at the same time, he’s my manager now. So you’ve got to get your head down and work.”
Indeed, Banks is acutely aware that being star-struck is not an option.
In typically determined fashion, he adds: “I can’t be thinking about what he did in his career. I’ve got to show him what I can do.”
As well as being able to call upon the expertise of the Arsenal Invincible, World Cup and European Championship winner in the dugout, there are similarly inspiring figures on the grass.
Palace are playing with pace and panache this season and Banks is loving every moment of training with the array of attacking talent they possess; not least the outrageously gifted Wilfried Zaha.
“Look at Wilfried Zaha — there is no better role model for a young winger to learn from,” Banks continued.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) November 10, 2020
“He is good with the younger players. He understands that we are just trying to impress and he knows how much he can help. So, he is always there to have words with you and try to nurture you.
“Even just watching him and the things he can do with a football is a massive learning experience!
“[Michael] Olise has come into the club and [Eberechi] Eze is a brilliant talent.
“It’s a really exciting side and it’s my job to break into that side and play a part in what Palace are trying to achieve.”
Now fit and firing once more, Banks made his competitive debut — a second cap overall — at Scotland under-21 level last week.
He entered the fray as a second-half substitute with Gemmill’s side 1-0 down against Denmark and made an admirable impact, forcing a fine late save from Mads Hermansen.
However, the defeat ultimately sees Scotland with just one point from two games on the road to Euro 2023, ensuring next month’s qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belgium loom large.
Both games take place at Tannadice, taking United academy product Banks back to his old stomping ground.
“Hopefully, I’ve done enough to cement my place in the group and be a part of the squad next month,” added Banks.
“We just need to add those little bits of quality. If we can turn the performances into points, then there is no reason why we can’t take six points from those two games at Tannadice.”