Carlton Cole has had a hand in the emergence of Jeremy Ngakia.
The former Hammers striker – who yesterday took something of a pop at Felipe Anderson for his lack of contribution to the defeat at Anfield – has been singing Ngakia’s praises to the skies.
As an academy coach Carlton knows the youngster’s game well and believes he is instinctively a top defender.
It remains to be seen whether manager David Moyes will hand him the right back slot against Southampton but on the face of it there seems no good reason for him not to.
His performance against Sadio Mane was totally outstanding and with Ryan Fredericks out for another five or six weeks the teenager;s time appears to be at hand.
He will no doubt be under the tutelage of Pablo Zabaleta whose enormous experience could be of huge importance to the 19 year old over the remainder of the season.
Cole – speaking at https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2020/february/27-february/jeremy-ngakia-was-immense-liverpool-carlton-cole said: “I thought his concentration and focus on Monday night was immense,”
“To hold his own against someone like Sadio Mane, one of the best in the world at the moment, and other players like Andy Robertson, was a measure of his quality.
“Jeremy is a natural defender. I think he started as a winger, but he has that natural instinct to defend – his reading of the game and sense of positioning are very, very good. And he has developed that entirely in the West Ham Academy, which is huge credit to the staff and coaches who have guided him on his journey.
“In some ways, he has probably been helped by the fact that he has come into the side under the radar in terms of there not being any hype about him before his debut.
“To be honest, I don’t think there will have even been many West Ham fans who knew much about him, perhaps only those who watch academy or U23 games, and so he has been able to develop without too much fuss.
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“With young players, you watch them develop and progress at academy level, you see the quality and ability they have, but you can never be 100 per cent sure that they are going to be capable of making that step up to first-team, Premier League football.
“Because it is a huge, huge step, not just in terms of the standard of play, but also the mental strength and character needed to perform on that stage.
Some young players – even the most talented and promising ones – freeze when they get their opportunity and find it impossible to play with confidence and freedom in those surroundings.
“For that reason, when Jeremy got his chance – and I’m talking about the first game against Liverpool at home, I was worried for him. Not because I doubted his ability, but simply because you can just never really tell how a young player will cope when they don’t have any previous experience.
“But he was outstanding in that fixture, and he was outstanding again on Monday night. Don’t forget, he is coming into a very difficult situation with where we are in the table, and not only that but he has played his first two matches against the European and world champions, who will be Premier League champions this season.”