West Ham kids are all right, so why not give them a chance?
PUBLISHED: 11:30 07 June 2017
West Ham Correspondent Dave Evans looks at the youth policy at the club and how it compares to the rest of the Premier League
West Ham are a club that has always prided itself on the stature of their Academy.
The legendary Tony Carr brought through a boatload of quality players during his time at the club and they got into the team as youngsters and developed from there.
‘If they were good enough they were old enough’ was the remit of the club.
So when co-owner David Gold tweeted: “I think we all have to accept that it is extremely unlikely that a teenager will break into a PL team full of seasoned internationals,” there was a huge outcry from supporters.
Football is a very different game these days of course, but if you follow that train of thought then Tony Cottee (17), Martin Peters (18), Billy Bonds (19 for Charlton) and yes, Bobby Moore (17) would not have seen the first team for years to come.
Moore went in at the deep end against Manchester United, Cottee against Tottenham, and they thrived and became West Ham legends.
This past season, Slaven Bilic’s Hammers played one teenager in Declan Rice for one minute in the final game of the campaign at Burnley, and that is it, that’s your lot.
So maybe West Ham haven’t got any teenagers coming through? Not true.
Marcus Browne (19), Grady Diangana (19), Nathan Holland (18), Dan Kemp (18), Reece Oxford (18) and Domingos Quina (17) all appeared on the bench for the first team, but were not given a chance to show what they can do.
When you look at players 21 and under, it is slightly better, but not substantially.
West Ham played both Edimilson Fernandes and Ashley Fletcher, but the likes of Reece Burke, Josh Cullen and Martin Samuelsen were sent out on loan.
Moses Makasi and Alex Pike were two more not given a chance in the first team, while promising goalkeeper Sam Howes, an England international at under-17, under-18 and under-19 has just been released by the club.
The Bilic way of doing things is to send his youngsters out on loan and see if they sink or swim. This sometimes works as with Cullen at Bradford City, but sometimes it backfires like Oxford at Reading and Samuelsen at Blackburn.
So how does West Ham’s strategy compare to the rest of the Premier League? Are there teenagers already making their mark in the top flight?
The table shows us how the other clubs fare.
Premier League youngsters
Arsenal: Rob Holding (21); Alex Iwobi (21); Ainsley Maitland-Niles (19).
Bournemouth: Baily Cargill (21); Lewis Cook (20); Jordon Ibe (21); Matt Worthington (19); Lys Mousset (21).
Burnley: Dan Agyei (20); Aiden O’Neill (18).
Chelsea: Kenedy (21); Ruben Loftus-Cheek (21); Ola Aina (20).
Crystal Palace: Sullay Kaikai (21).
Everton: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (20); Tom Davies (18); Mason Holgate (20); Jonjoe Kenny (20); Ademola Lookman (19).
Hull City: Jarrod Bowen (20); Josh Tymon (18).
Leicester City: Ben Chilwell (20); Demarai Gray (20); Wilfred Ndidi (20).
Trent Alex-Arnold 18; Marco Grujic (21); Ovie Ejaria (19); Ben Woodburn (17).
Manchester City: Gabriel Jesus (20); Aleix Garcia Serrano (19); Kelechi Ihenacho (20); Leroy Sane (21).
Manchester United: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (19); Angel Gomez (16); Josh Harrop (21); Joel Pereira (20); Anthony Martial (21); Scott McTominay (20); Demetri Mitchell (20); Marcus Rashford (19); Axel Tuanzebe (19).
Middlesbrough: Adama Traore (21).
Southampton: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (21); Joshua Sims (20); Matt Targett (21).
Stoke City: Julien Ngoy (19); Ramadan Sobhi (20).
Sunderland: Joel Asoro (18); Jason Denayer (21); Lynden Gooch (21).
Swansea City: Oliver McBurnie (21).
Tottenham Hotspur: Dele Alli (21); Harry Winks (21); Filip Lesniak (21); Josh Onomah (20).
Watford: Andrew Eleftheriou (19); Mickael Folivi (19); Isaac Success (21); Kenedy (21); Dion Pereira (18); Jerome Sinclair (20); Brandon Mason (19).
West Brom: Sam Field (19); Jonathan Leko (18).
West Ham United: Declan Rice (18); Ashley Fletcher (21); Edimilson Fernandes (21).
Manchester United are certainly the most prolific, something which may have been more a necessity than a plan from manager Jose Mourinho, who was always reluctant to give youth its head at Chelsea.
The Premier League is for many the best league in the world and therefore it should be tough to get youngsters through, but clubs like Man United, Everton and Watford are proving that it can be done.
There are so many mediocre foreign players plying their trade here. Surely Cullen, Oxford, Samuelsen and Burke should have been given a chance last season ahead of players who did not do the business.
Former BBC pundit Alan Hansen once said you win nothing with kids and Manchester United proved him wrong.
West Ham have always prided themselves on their kids, but they are simply not getting a chance.
The pressures on any manager for immediate success are huge, but was playing Gokhan Tore or Simone Zaza ahead of an Academy player the right move?
Sometimes you have to be brave and throw these youngsters in at the deep end. Otherwise, there is a chance you may lose them.
As Dean Ashton wrote in response to Gold. “I’d think I’ll go to a club where they are willing to give young players a shot!”
And that is the worrying thing.
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