West Ham youngster steps into the big time with nerveless display

PUBLISHED: 16:30 28 February 2019

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (left) and West Ham United's Ben Johnson battle for the ball

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero (left) and West Ham United's Ben Johnson battle for the ball

PA Archive/PA Images

Hammers youngster Ben Johnson made his debut at reigning champions Manchester City

West Ham United's Ben JohnsonWest Ham United's Ben Johnson

Trying to predict a Manuel Pellegrini line-up can be tough at the best of times, so trying to work out the team for Wednesday night’s trip to Manchester City was an absolute nightmare.

One player who would not have been on too many supporters’ lists was Ben Johnson, the 19-year-old full-back who made his first start for the Hammers.

It must have been a daunting prospect, but for the Academy boy, who boasts former England stars Paul Parker and Ledley King as his uncle and cousin, took it in his stride.

“It’s been a great occasion,” he said after the 1-0 defeat by the reigning champions.

West Ham United's Ben JohnsonWest Ham United's Ben Johnson

“I waited around for it for the whole day, but I enjoyed it a lot and it was a great experience to be out there against the best – that’s who I want to be playing against in the future.”

The youngster has been at the club since the age of seven and has worked his way through the age group teams, up to the under-23s in Premier League 2.

And it seems that he impressed the manager on the recent winter training trip to Malaga.

Johnson was drafted in at left-back after Aaron Cresswell was ruled out with a foot injury and was preferred to the more attack-minded Arthur Masuaku.

He had to play up against Riyad Mahrez and did such a good job that the Algerian was replaced early in the second half.

So when did he know that he was going to be playing against the champs?

“The gaffer put me in the starting eleven when we worked on set-pieces earlier and that’s when I knew, so I just got prepared for it,” said the youngster.

“I felt like I did okay. I just need to pick up on a few things, watch it back and improve my game. I felt confident out there and I’m ready to go again.”

Johnson played 63 minutes, before being replaced by the slightly more experienced Pablo Zabaleta!

It is indicative of the style of manager Pellegrini that he is prepared to give youngsters a chance, even in the big games.

Declan Rice is an established player in the team, Grady Diangana is a regular, while he has also given chances to the likes of Xande Silva, Conor Coventry, Nathan Holland and now Johnson.

There is no lacking in confidence from the youngster as he even had time to give a mouthful to team-mate Felipe Anderson for not tracking back!

He might have regretted that though when Anderson did track back and conceded the match-winning penalty.

He may have to wait for another chance to show what he can do, but with many fans looking for the club to sign a new left-back, maybe the answer is within.

It looks like another star may be born for West Ham

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