ROY HODGSON admits Freddie Ladapo is an “unknown quantity” – and Crystal Palace’s only available striker for the trip to Manchester United.
Palace have been dealt a major blow with talisman Christian Benteke ruled out for six weeks with a knee problem.
After just six lower league goals in 32 appearances last season, Romford-born Ladapo is now set for an incredible Palace bow at Old Trafford.
And Hodgson admits he and his staff know so little about the player that he has no idea what to expect.
Former non-league man Ladapo, 24, is still a rookie and not played a single game for Palace.
He started at Colchester but only found regular action at Grays Athletic and Margate.
After being picked up from Margate in 2015 for a small fee, Palace farmed him out on loan to Oldham and Shrewsbury.
Palace are the only team left in Europe’s big five leagues still to claim a league points and could equal Portsmouth’s Prem of seven straight defeats at the start of 2009/10.
Eagles boss Hodgson said: “Freddie Ladapo has been training with the first team for quite a while now.
“He’s an unknown quantity, for me certainly, because I haven’t had the chance to see him in action at this sort of level.
“He hasn’t played a lot of games for managers otherwise as well, so there’s not a lot of information in the club as to how he would react.
“But in the current situation where we find ourselves, where we really don’t have the cover or the back-up for Christian Benteke, the fact he’s training every day and he’s a centre forward puts him very much in the frame.”
Palace have lost all six Premier League encounters so far, leaking 13 goals without reply – and five at Manchester City last weekend.
Hodgson insisted Palace are not close to drafting in a free agent to ease their striker shortage.
He conceded that winger Bacary Sako is another option to start up front at Old Trafford.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has a thigh strain, while James Tomkins is sick and Conor Wickham and Wilfried Zaha remain long-term absentees.
Hodgson added: “Christian Benteke has medial ligament damage which will keep him out for a minimum of six weeks.
⚽ Ian Wright’s Premier League Tips ⚽
Former striker Ian Wright selects his top tips for Saturday’s action.
“Romelu Lukaku has started exactly as you’d want a £75m signing to start.
“Not only has he scored a load of goals but he’s also silenced those questioning his link-up play and the first touch.
“He’s the only player in my mind when it comes to the first goalscorer market – and I fancy United to get loads againsrt Crystal Palace.”
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“We’ve been hit by a plague of injuries at a time when we could have done without it.
“Bacary Sako was bought as a left-winger who can score goals.
“He doesn’t have much experience up front where he played in the League Cup against Huddersfield, but we were satisfied with his performance that day, and the fact he scored.
“To be brutally honest it’s not easy to find players who are out of work who are good enough to come into the Premier League and make us better.
“We’re not the only club with an eye to anyone who may just be available and willing to come and work on even perhaps a short-term contract.”