Roy Hodgson has given “disgraceful” Harry the Hornet a stinging warning – telling the Watford mascot not to provoke fans with more Wilfried Zaha antics.
Eagles boss Hodgson fiercely defended Zaha and berated Harry for mocking the pacy frontman with elaborate dives in previous heated confrontations.
Ahead of Palace’s trip to fourth-placed Watford on Sunday, Hodgson issued what might well be the sternest rebuke ever from a Premier League manager to a mascot.
He said: “You ask me if Harry the Hornet should dive in that way. I think it’s disgraceful.
“That’s not what football matches are about. And certainly if it’s provoking the crowd into looking for something that isn’t there it should be stopped.
“Wilf Zaha does not dive.. Sometimes he gets knocked over or unbalanced without it necessarily being a foul or a penalty because he runs at such speed and has got such agility with the ball. But he certainly doesn’t dive.
“But unfortunately teams try to take every advantage they can.”
Hodgson is clearly keen for football to stamp out mischief-making mascots.
He told reporters: “You’ve mentioned the mascot. I would be very disappointed if the Crystal Palace mascot was doing something like that to provoke a crowd against an opponent. And if I found out about it I’d stop it.”
Zaha’s alleged diving was all the buzz in football for a while.
And the attention peaked in December 2016 at Vicarage Road when he he was furious to be booked for simulation near the end of a 1-1 draw.
Zaha then had to be hauled away by Palace’s coaching staff at the final whistle after Harry the Hornet threw himself to the ground near the Ivory Coast star.
Seething Sam Allardyce, who was in his first match as Eagles chief, reacted remarkably similarly at the time to how Hodgson has now.
Allardyce said then: “The mascot is out of order because it could have produced the wrong reaction.
“It’s up to Watford to sort it out but the FA and Premier League can look at that and do what they want to do about it.”
Meanwhile, Hodgson is tipping Zaha to get even better in front of goal – a month after Palace fought off interest from Tottenham to tie him to a new five-year contract.
Hodgson said: “Wilf is an enthusiastic trainer.
“He is working hard on his goal scoring this year. I have noticed a big difference in intensity when he has goal scoring chances.”
Now it’s up to Zaha to blow his own trumpet and keep Harry the Hornet silent.
READ MORE OF FOOTBALL’S FUNNY SIDE FROM DREAM TEAM: