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Cause for concern in Irons academy


CandH Exclusive by Gonzo


We all know the motto ‘The Academy of Football’ and we’re all rightly proud of it at West Ham.

I can’t help but feel however that it has become more of a slogan than a statement of fact. It’s become more of a virtue signal than an actual mandate to act upon.

From the outside I’m sure all looks rosy at Rush Green & Chadwell Heath. Graduate Declan Rice is captain and an England international while fellow academy scholar Ben Johnson is a regular starter. So what’s the problem ?

Well it all started with Jeremy Ngakia’s refusal to sign a new contract at West Ham despite several offers. I’m fully aware that Ngakia has not gone on to great things at Watford but both Moyes and the club wanted to retain him. Despite that  the Hammers were unable to persuade the player or his representatives to remain.

Sonny Perkins

Fast forward to this summer and we had precisely the same issue with highly rated England U18 striker Sonny Perkins. I recently spoke with Tony Carr and he told me that Perkins and Alese were the outstanding prospects in the West Ham academy. My understanding is the both the club and Moyes were desperate for Perkins to sign a contract but he refused and departed for Leeds United.

Sonny either believed that he’d play more first team football at Leeds or he’d been offered a better financial package (perhaps both). Either way it’s far from ideal particularly when he’s so highly regarded by his international coaches and the West Ham staff.

Once again we have an almost identical situation with Hammers right back Harrison Ashby who may well reject a new deal. Ashby has already featured  in the Conference league this season and  appears to have all the attributes.

Newcastle rate him highly and according to reports Eddie Howe would like to sign Ashby and integrate him into the Toon’s first team squad. Much like Perkins and Ngakia, the club and Moyes would like to retain him but he’s at the end of his contract.

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Harrison Ashby

I don’t claim to know much about youth players contracts but for it to happen once is a shame. To allow a second player to run down their contract is sloppy but for it to happen a third time indicates a bigger and worrying issue.

As I see it David Moyes has six months to schmooze Ashby, make him feel important and start to integrate him into the first team. It will need to be a tag-team effort because the club will also have six months to persuade the player to sign a new contract.

My concern is that young players no longer see West Ham as an attractive club with a route to regular first team football. And before anyone mentions Rice and Johnson it’s important to remember that Moyes did not give them their debuts.

Manuel Pellegrini bravely played Ben Johnson at full-back against Manchester City and it was Slaven Bilic who gave Rice his first start 200 games ago.

West Ham are known as the Academy of Football . . . it’s time we started acting like it.



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About Gonzo

ST holder, West Ham video blogger, www.hammerschat.com @Gonzobignose

8 comments on “Cause for concern in Irons academy

  1. The way I look at it is if one of these kids wants out then I don’t want them in. If they don’t want to play for West Ham then good riddance I say. We only need players who want to play for West Ham. Sonny Perkins is now for Leeds Under age team I believe at a lower league youth level than he was at West Ham. So what has he gained so far? If he’d stayed at West Ham Perkins would have been loaned out to a championship team this summer and be learning bag loads by playing proper mens football. Since I heard Perkins was a massive Spurs fan I wasn’t particularly bothered about his departure anyway to be honest. The best of all these youth players that left for the lure of pastures new was probably Reece Oxford. He’s doing ok in Germany now I’ve heard but it’s taken him several years. He wasn’t ready back then. I blame the greedy agents. Ashby shares the same agent as the Newcastle manager Eddie Howe so you can see what’s going on there. Ashby has also been linked with Leeds by the way. Of course he has. So it’s no use saying we need to keep Ashby, I’m sure we do and I’m sure we will try to but if the lad has Eddie Howes agent in his ear advising him to join the richest club in world football then I’m not sure there’s much we can do to stop him from leaving. Again though, if the kid thinks he’s better than West Ham then good luck to him. Let him jog on.

  2. Could not agree more. Been thinking the same because
    * In the Premier League last season, Moyes kept bringing on the same old tired legs with 10/20 minutes left to play, instead of any youngsters.
    * Only played them occasionally in European matches when nothing at stake. In other words he had no faith in their chances of success.
    * This season they have been looking for cover at left back, ignoring the fact we apparently have a very good left back who stands out in the matces he does play in the U23s and any cameo in the first team (Longelo) and who is out on loan. Meaning he would NOT get sufficient playing time at WHU to improve and progress.
    * Conor Coventry has been out on loan, has great loan, academy and Ireland international reviews (coaches, featured in some match reviews) yet is seems to be a last resort in midfield and he’ll be moved on if they get a defensive midfielder. Plus I do not see him progressing (improving range of passing) but regressing by playing safer and safer.
    * I think (am guessing) the academy puts emphasis on technical ability, skill on the ball, ball retention, playing patterns, speed, nous, etc. Moyes looks for other qualities, so he will immediately reject academy players as not corresponding to his criteria. As evidence, i would say WHU often look technically inferior to teams such as Brighton (a comparable team to ours) and am sure Fornals plays well within himself in terms of skills & passing range, because first and foremost to stay in the team he has to meet Moyes’ premium attributes. At Barcelona you would see the full range of skills am sure. Same problem for academy players.
    * Letting Ajese go when we were desperate for a left-footed CD was final proof for me. He was captain of our U23s after all and always looked good; just young with some defensive honing to be done, which is precisely what our first team coaches would be dying to do.
    Peter A.

    • Excellent points and I totally agree (and with Gonzo) that there is a disconnect between Moyes and the Academy. West Ham are entering a period of transition and this is just the time when we should be giving first team opportunities to the likes of Ashby, Longelo and Coventry. For me Ashby is the acid test as he is our best prospect in years: if we allow him to leave then it sends out a message that there is no pathway to a first team place for any of our young players. Moyes will always revert to type and play the old pros, who he will run into the ground, but if you’re good enough it should not be about how old you are. The Academy is in danger of withering on the vine.

  3. Absolutely agree Gonzo and have made similar observations previously. I cannot agree with those who say the youngsters are disloyal or if they think they are better let them go. For me it’s about creating the environment that makes them feel that there is a pathway here, and currently there clearly is not. SelsdonHammer makes this point well, that DM wants lung bursting running and the U23’s preps technically so he never gives them a chance. The message is ‘not ready and never will be’ – so they leave. Too much talent going out the door, and the fact that progressive Premier managers want to snap them up should be screaming at us that we are getting it wrong, not blaming the kids.

  4. However none of the ones that have left have torn up trees have they?
    When Diangana left their was outrage and while he had a good year in the championship found the Premier league a bit tough the next season and in 97 games for West Brom has only scored 12 goals hardly earth shattering stuff.
    Sometimes the grass isn’t greener over the fence and staying put working hard for a chance maybe a better option than seeking a better deal which I feel agents push them to do.

  5. I am more concerned with the gems we have now, not looking at years gone by, as we have a particularly good crop of youngsters. Whilst there will now be an element of Agent involvement to unsettle young players, I take issue with your point about staying put and working hard for a chance because, as hammerpete6 so aptly put it, Moyes’ attitude is always “not ready and never will be”. I don’t believe many West Ham supporters would complain if the youngsters failed to impress after being given first team opportunities but Moyes should at least give them a chance to prove themselves. Ashby could be our right back for years to come, so let’s see how good he is now. After all, we only have one other genuine right back who is fit.

  6. For me the only way to judge these youngsters is to see them play in the championship. They have to stand out on loan at championship level, like Bowen did for us to want to take a chance on them in the premier league. We have to ask ourselves if they were not from the West Ham academy would we go out of our way to sign them? Would we pay a big transfer fee for them. If not then they’re not probably not good enough.

  7. Fair enough point Clive and it is true, but (here am stealing an idea from an article I read) within the framework of U23, out on loan, return to possible 1st team integration, it should be tailored according to the individual player and club circumstances. If you have a stand-out U23 and you are lacking cover in the 1st team then train him up within the 1st team (or do we need intermediate, dedicated coaching between U23 and 1st team?) and trust the player to perform and pick up from his mistakes quickly. Moyes does not seem to trust them at all and I think he is just paying lip service to the idea of including academy players and now we have premiership clubs poaching our standout U23s meaning they think in a season or two max. they could be an integral part of their 1st team for a tiny fee.

    Maybe with dedicated coaching for a group of U23s Moyes would have more faith in them plus it would be a “pathway” as they say, to the 1st team (is this what they do in the England rugby setup?)

    Would be great to have a revealing interview with Moyes on this (wow, did I just see a pig fly over?) . Anyhow, like everyone here, I hope we end up with a stylish team with flair, exciting players (come on Scamacca!) and plenty of local youngsters shining on the big stage. If Moyes takes us there, that is great too, love the fact he went away, studied his trade so to speak and came back with new ideas and analysis. Sorry my comments are a bit long.

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