How the Hammers can protect Academy golden generation


Blind Hammer reviews options for the rising crop of youngsters

Callum Marshall’s 30-minute cameo for Northern Ireland reminds us that we have an impressive crop of youngsters emerging.

Rarely does a player make repeated international appearances before breaking into his club side.
Marshall is not alone in receiving a national call up. Krisztián Hegyi also received a call up from Hungary in advance of any West Ham first team action.

Marshall is not even the next cab off the rank, Divin Mubama is ahead in the race to place pressure on Antonio et al. Dan Chesters, George Earthy, Kaelan Casey, and Dan Rigge are amongst others who will make a case for inclusion in future first team squads at West Ham or elsewhere.

So, what to do to maximize these youngsters’ potential?

Well, to my mind, need a 4-pronged strategy.

1. Keep a winning team

Easier said than done I know but a successful first team environment is essential. Despite their exciting promise we need to keep a level, realistic approach. Fast tracking into the first team helped rice blossom but failed spectacularly with Oxford.

Excessive, early exposure carries real risks. We must avoid the reckless strategy of throwing players willy nilly into the deep end. Allardyce infamously, in 2014, shattered confidence. pre-occupied with fighting relegation and an impending League Cup Semi final. He plunged nine West Ham youngsters into the fire at an FA Cup tie at Nottingham Forest. The result was a demoralizing rout where we were lucky to only lose 5-0.

Debutants for West Ham that day included Danny Whitehead, Seb Lletget, and Callum Driver. George Moncur also made his first start for West Ham, and Reese

Reece Burke

Burke was a 17-year-old substitute asked to somehow rescue a flailing defence in the second half.

Moncur and Burke went on to have reasonable careers in the lower leagues and indeed Burke has now returned to the Premiership with Luton. However, Allardyce himself said that the experience was a disaster for all concerned, and certainly did not initially help Moncur and Burke.

On the other hand, success will breed opportunity, especially in the European Group Games, where chances for sensibly blooding youngsters in a supportive environment will emerge, specifically, if we can nail down qualification early.

Manchester City and Liverpool have both proved that a successful environment is the best support for developing young talent.

2. Show a path to the first team.

West Ham, in the heart of East London, is situated in one of the most fertile fields of footballing talent. Despite the increasing globalization of PL football, he East end of London has, for decades, provided a power cradle of footballing genius.

This is a key factor underlying how the Academy has, over the years, punched above its weight. East End football graduates excel not just at West Ham but at other clubs. Non -Hammer products of the East End include Jimmy Greaves, Terry Venables, David Beckham, and John Terry amongst many, many others. Consequently, it is not only West Ham that look to the East end to secure their footballing future.

This year alone promising West Ham youngsters Divine Mukasa was snatched away by Manchester City and Academy centre-back Amara Nallo was similarly scooped away by Liverpool. It is galling to read the excited crowing of Liverpool supporters about the capture of Nallo.

The mega status of clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City are hard to resist. So, we need a strategy to protect our investment. We need to ensure our “first pick” of the cream of our East End heartlands.

Joe Cole

To compete we need, to offer, a viable pathway to the first team. Joe Cole was a boyhood Chelsea supporter from a Chelsea supporting family. Yet he opted for West Ham as the best vehicle to develop his burgeoning career, as he could see a path to the first team.

So Moyes, Noble and Steidten must develop a most delicate and balanced transfer policy which maintains success whilst, most crucially, avoids the blocking of a path into the first team.

3. A complete revamp of the West ham loan system.

An obvious development route is to send players out on loan to learn their footballing onions. Freddie Potts is apparently doing well at Wycombe, but the sad truth is that loan projects has failed for decades. I cannot recall any recent player returning to force a first team breakthrough.

Not since the days of Defoe and Lampard at Bournemouth and Swansea, have loans created first team regulars. Coventry is the most successful in recent years and he is nowhere near the first team.
Arguably Rice progressed precisely because he did not go out on loan. Yet other clubs seem to do better out of their loan systems, not just Chelsea and Arsenal, but even clubs like Villa.

So, whilst the Academy over performs at identifying and preparing players, our loan placements have been awful as finishing schools.Noble seems the best hope of revamping our loan strategy. He has, at least, the advantage of learning from his own disastrous loan spell at Hull, from which he somehow rescued his West ham career.

4. Institute buy back and sell on.

The reality is that some players will develop later. Antonio and Vardi are both famous examples. Yet the Premiership is too impatient an arena to accommodate late developers – the requirement for peak performance is immediate. Cullen, for example, needed to leave West Ham to find the time to develop his game, developing even now at Burnley.

Josh Cullen

So, as well as copying Chelsea, Arsenal and the like in developing successful loan systems we need to take a leaf out of Manchester City’s books. Talented young players should have buy-back and/or sell-on clauses s inserted into their release arrangement.

This should be done by applying a purely nominal transfer fee amenable to a lower club’s budget. I have been opposed to these clauses in the past as it seems a way of big clogs having their cake and eating it,

Removing any risk from releasing players to other clubs. Yet if we cannot beat the system, we should join in exploiting it. On a purely business level it acts to protect our club’s investment in our Academy.

So, there you have it, a potential 4-point plan to protect our Golden Generation.

David Griffith

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My Father, born in 1891 was brought up in the shadows of the Thames Ironworks Memorial Ground. I remember as a child jumping over the settee when Alan Sealy scored in our 1965 European Cup Winners triumph.

My first game was against Leicester in 1968, when Martin Peters scored what was adjudged by ITV’s Big Match as the Goal of the Season.

I became a season ticket holder in 1970.

I was registered blind in 1986 and thought my West Ham supporting days were over. However in 2010 I learnt about the fantastic support West Ham offer to Blind and other Disabled Supporters. I now use the Insightful Irons in-stadium commentary service and West Ham provide space for my Guide Dog Nyle.

I sit on the West Ham Disabled Supporters Board and the LLDC Built Environment Access Panel.

David Griffith aka Blind Hammer


  • hammerpete6 says:

    This subject is dear to my heart and this post is the best I’ve ever seen. This is a serious subject, just look at the list of prospects at the top of the article. My only offering to David’s excellent plan is the gradual integration of individuals into the first team. Klopp does this brilliantly. Moyes seems averse and needs to change. IMO Mubama should already be getting the late sub ons, not Ings. As David says, a route to the first team.

  • Good Old Daze says:

    Another great article – as usual David talks a lot of sense. The one thing I would add to hammerpete6’s comment – which I also endorse – is that I don’t think we’ve had any matches so far this season, and very few last season, in which we looked comfortable enough to bring some of the younger players on for 30 mins or so, or even start them outside of the League Cup. That said, at the end of a match 15 mins of Mubama has got to be as good as 15 mins of Ings.

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