West Ham United pride themselves on their ability to bring through young prospects and turn them into Premier League first-team players. With more and more money coming into the game however, and the importance of homegrown status players becoming almost crucial in today’s game, the Hammers have used their reputation in the game to poach some talent from other teams’ academies.
It is a refreshing change for the East end club after seeing all their young stars slowly being picked off one-by-one following relegation back in 2003. It; of course, started before then with the loss of Rio Ferdinand to Leeds United, for a then record fee. Then following relegation, the likes of Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe (who we pinched off Charlton as a kid) and Michael Carrick all went to ‘bigger clubs’.
Now; however, the roles have reversed, it started last summer when the Irons poached one of the best prospects from Manchester City in Martin Samuelsen, who enjoyed a decent loan spell at League One Peterborough United this season. Samuelsen upon arrival stated that the reputation of the Hammers played a pivotal role in attracting him to the Boleyn [Ground].
It is no secret that the Hammers now have one of the best scouts in the game in Tony Henry, and he is now at it again alongside Terry Westley as the East-enders look to bring in further talent to boost an already strong academy. The latest recruits come in the shape of Spaniard Toni Martinez (who joins from Valencia) and Domingos Quina (ex-Chelsea), with the midfielder moving from west to east London.
These are exciting times for the Irons, as they move into their shiny new stadium come August, welcoming Italian giants Juventus to the Olympic Stadium. And they want to move into their new home in Stratford with a wealth of new talent. You suspect Quina and Martinez won’t be the first through the Chadwell Heath doors this summer.
The West Ham faithful has greeted the news of their new arrivals in positive fashion, as the traditionalists amongst us still believe it is one of the core values of the club. And the good news for the fans is that we still have an abundance of talent that have grown up with the club.
At the top end of the bracket; at under-21 level, the club has a team in a cup final, the development squad level version of the youth cup. The Hammers lead 1-0 going into the second-leg at the KC Stadium on Tuesday. That team is blessed with some of the best young talent in Essex; including Lewis Page, Reece Oxford, Josh Cullen and Marcus Browne to name a few and are all predicted to have a bright future in the game. That is even without mentioning some of the young recruits who come from further afield in our academies around the globe.
One such player the Hammers recruited from their global talent net is goalscorer on the night, Djair Parfitt-Williams, to give the Hammers the edge. Former Iron; Clyde Best, spotted the Bermuda-born youngster. The Hammers really are leaving no stone unturned as they scour the planet for the best young talent around.
Closer to home, there is much excitement surrounding young Reece Burke. The ball-playing centre-back has impressed immensely during his loan stint at Bradford, scooping up six awards at the Bantams end of season awards dinner. The misty-eyed Hammers inside of me is hoping that we will see a partnership of Burke and Oxford in the first-team in the very near future.
Manager Slaven Bilic will hope that his youngsters continue to push on as he will know as well as anyone that behind every good club is an even better academy, and if the Irons can produced the next Rio Ferdinand or Joe Cole, they will save themselves a pretty penny during the transfer windows.
The future is bright; the future is Claret and Blue.
Come on you Irons!