Mark Noble may have been the proudest man inside the London Stadium at the end of last night.
His pride was so obvious as he spoke of the youngsters who had done so incredibly well in the final Europa Cup league match against Dinamo Zagreb last night.
With an entirely back line of kids from Premier League 2 to only be beaten by a goal that no defence could have stopped was a remarkable achievement.
And it gave us all a glimpse into a future that looks rich with promise and could save the club fortiuns in the transfer market.
Speaking afterwards the captain declared: “I’m incredibly proud of them. I’ve seen a lot of them grow up since they were 11 years of age and watched them progress through the Academy and into the first team. It’s a credit to the Club for the players to have got us into this position where we’ve topped the group with a game to spare.
“We’ve got a lot of big games coming up and we’ve actually picked up a lot of injuries in the last few weeks, so to get our Academy boys – including myself, who is a little bit older than the rest of them! – on is fantastic all-round.
“The coaches in the Academy all the way up have done a fantastic job with these boys, not just as players but people as well, and they fully deserve credit for that.”
Reflecting on the night as a whole, the skipper said the sight of seeing so many young lads on the pitch made up for any disappointment at seeing the Club’s unbeaten start to their European tour come to an end.
“Obviously, aside from the result, because we don’t like losing, it was a positive night all-round,” he told West Ham TV. “To see so many Academy boys out there at the end, and a lot of local boys who have been involved, including a couple of 17-year-olds, is fantastic and hopefully it won’t be their last chance and they keep getting chances.
“I’ve had an incredible career at this Club and to be able to play in Europe in my final season at the Club, including our first home game here against Rapid Vienna, is fantastic.
“The result obviously matters, but to see seven Academy players on the pitch is obviously pretty special. What a proud night for their families, watching their children play in front of 50,000 for West Ham United.”
For Canning Town-born Noble, seeing so many home-grown players on the pitch conjured memories of his own debut as a 17-year-old in a League Cup win over Southend United at the Boleyn Ground in August 2004.
He said: “I remember making my debut and I went home after and I thought: ‘If that’s my career done, I’ll take that’, because in the history books I’ll always be a West Ham player.
“I hope they’re hungry to have more, because I certainly did, and maybe one or two of them can follow in my footsteps and play over 500 games for the Club!”