Over the course of covering the West Ham United U23s, I have noticed that it is a bigger project than what first meets the eye. Youngsters aren’t just coached on how to play their next game, but on how to play for the next 15 or 20 years. Sitting next to scouts in the stands, it is a daunting prospect knowing that one error on the playing field from someone could result in a player’s name being scratched off a list.
Furthermore, I thought it was time to take a step back from the intensity of the fixtures and look at the Academy as a whole. With the international break coming up, I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with the manager Terry Westley.
To begin with, I questioned the attitude of one of his players, Marcus Browne, due to the sheer number of bookings and suspensions he has picked up over the last couple of years. Westley’s responded by sticking by his young player:
“I think that’s what he is. He plays on the edge. Similar maybe to Wayne Rooney, that type, they play right on the edge. They are constantly getting fouled. That is the way Marcus plays and I would never like to stop that. I would like to see him really when he is at his best; in that final third going past people and the more we can help him with that and his understanding of the game, the better.”
Future of Academy
Although the team were relegated from the top tier of Development football, last season saw the young Hammers lift the Premier League Cup. Looking at the Academy overall, Westley was happy with the way things are going and the progress that the club were making.
“We’re in decent shape, this team can get better. We’re a young team and a lot of scholars are still playing for us. Dan Kemp, Nathan Trott the goalkeeper, Vashon Neufville and Declan Rice. They are all apprentices who can go on and play for us for many years to come. Signs are good.”
Finally, we spoke about how the Academy aims to be not just beneficial to the individuals, but to West Ham United as a Premier League club.
“That’s what this job is. This job is about developing players to try and step into the team and help Slaven Bilic and the rest of the staff at first team level, or they go on loan and ply their trade in League One or the Championship. I think we have still got several players playing out on loan, playing for different clubs.”