West Ham youngster is loving the learning process
PUBLISHED: 10:49 16 November 2016 | UPDATED: 10:49 16 November 2016
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers striker Ashley Fletcher speaks exclusively to us
He has already played and scored twice at Wembley Stadium, but West Ham youngster Ashley Fletcher is happy to keep learning and waiting for more chances with Slaven Bilic’s squad.
Yorkshire-born Fletcher, who only turned 21 last month, talk with a northern accent and when he does speak the enthusiasm and wonder of being a young footballer in the Premier League is revealed to the full.
“I am training with world-class players,” he said. “Dimitri Payet got to the Euros final, so for me to see him in training every day and learning from his is amazing.
“Andy Carroll, though he is not playing at the moment, still gives me advice, Mark Noble too.
“I have always said I need to improve my heading and Andy is probably the best header of a ball in the Premier League, if not the world. To be in and around that type of player can only benefit me.”
When Fletcher made the move from Manchester United to West Ham in the summer it was something of a surprise, but Fletcher revealed that the manager and the chairman did a great job in selling him the club.
“It was my personal choice,” he added. “I had an unbelievable upbringing at Man United and I’d like to think that I brought the values I learned there to West Ham.
“The chairman and manager sold it to me by saying that they are similar to Man United in the way they give young players a chance.
“It was always going to be difficult to get into the team at Man United, so I thought if I stay there will my chance ever come? Or have I got to go and make a career for myself.”
Fletcher decided on the latter, though his time on loan at Barnsley in League One certainly helped bring him to the attention of clubs.
“It was an important stepping stone and I think I wouldn’t have been here at West Ham now if I didn’t go to Barnsley,” admitted the tall, lean striker.
“Getting that exposure in playing men’s football and playing at Wembley in two finals was so important.
“Some players don’t play at Wembley in their whole career so to play there twice in one season was unbelievable and sets me up for the rest of my career.”
Fletcher scored in the 3-2 win over Oxford United in the JPT Final and then followed that up with a goal in Barnsley’s 3-1 League One play-off final win over Millwall on his way to a season’s total of nine goals for the Yorkshire club and it was that that alerted West Ham to his talent.
“Barnsley were interested and Leeds, but it was all speculation really, and when West Ham came in I signed straight away,” he said.
Since penning that four-year deal, Fletcher has certainly made a good first impression. He has made nine appearances so far in league and cup, including a start at Manchester City back in August.
“It has been a roller-coaster really,” he said. “There was talk straight away about me going back on loan to Barnsley, but then I think I impressed the manager in pre-season and he made the decision that I wasn’t going anywhere.
“To get minutes in the Premier League and Europa League was great and is something that I want to keep on doing. When the manager threw me in at Man City, he told me on the morning of the game and I think I benefitted from that because I wasn’t nervous at all really.”
Fletcher moved to Bolton when he was a youngster and rubbed shoulders with Kevin Nolan – who is back training with West Ham – and came through their Academy side, before joining Manchester United.
“Kevin was there at the time, so for me to be training with him again is great,” he said.
“He was someone I idolised and he was a legend at West Ham, as well as Bolton.
“In terms of players my age at Bolton, we had Zach Clough, Josh Vela and Rob Holding, who has gone to Arsenal, so we had quite a few who have progressed from there.”
Fletcher never got to play at Upton Park, but what does he think of West Ham’s new London Stadium?
“Personally, I love it,” he said. “To walk out in front of 55,000 fans is magnificent. The atmosphere is unbelievable, honest. I have been at Old Trafford and at Wembley and it is up there with those in terms of noise levels. When they start singing ‘Bubbles’ it is mesmerising.”
West Ham’s strikers have certainly been criticised so far this season, but Fletcher is happy to be in and around the first-team and can’t wait for that first goal, especially if it comes at the London Stadium.
“I am so looking forward to scoring my first goal,” he said laughing. “Michail Antonio has been getting in my ear about a celebration, but I am not taking any tips from him.”
He may not be taking any tips on celebrations, but it seems Fletcher is learning his trade from some top players at West Ham and that can only be good for the future.
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