In profile: West Ham’s under-18s hoping to be the next Academy of Football graduates #WestHam

In profile: West Ham’s under-18s hoping to be the next Academy of Football graduates




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Last week ago we looked at how West Ham’s under-23s had bounced back from relegation to embark on an unbeaten league campaign in PL2 division two.

There was an overhaul at Chadwell Heath as in came Ricky Martin and Dmitri Halajko to replace Terry Westley and Liam Manning. It’s worked a treat as well as the youngsters are flying.

But there are other youngsters as well, an age group below at under-18, who have been having a decent campaign themselves after a change of management as well.

Former coach and first team star Jack Collison departed to be replaced by former academy graduate Kevin Keen to work alongside Mark Phillips at Little Heath.

The under-18s have gone unbeaten at home so far this season with six wins and three draws from their nine home games to sit second in the league, three points behind Fulham who they were set to face before the Covid-19 outbreak suspended football at all levels and age groups.

As we have seen with Jeremy Ngakia this season, the opportunity for promotion to a more senior team is there and the under-18s have also seen a turnover in players moving up to under-23 level.

The youngsters have used three goalkeepers on rotation this season with Krizstian Hegyi, Daniel Jinadu and Serrine Saneh all sharing duties. All are current internationals for Hungary, England and Nigeria respectively and have all appeared in an under-23 squad this season.

West Ham U18 coach Mark Phillips

In defence, Harrison Ashby has been a standout and he too has represented the 23s at stages this season. The Scotsman has been impressive, as has full back Sam Caiger, who has returned after nearly two years of back injury problems. He’s also popped up with a few goals, including two in a derby win over Tottenham earlier this season.

Impressive centre back Jamal Baptiste is one to keep an eye on as well having featured for the 23s, along with skipper Josh Okotcha and also Will Greenidge.

Into midfield and the youngsters have used plenty of players this campaign but the mainstays are Daniel Chesters, Keenan Appiah-Forson and Jake Giddings for the early part of the campaign.

Both Chesters and Appiah-Forson have featured for the 23s this season and that has seen others get a chance, Sebastian Nebyla and  Peter Stroud were called into action with Nebyla scoring some vital goals.

The coaching staff has mainly employed a 4-3-3 formation this season which seems to be paying dividends, especially in the league. Up front they have been firing and that was added to in November by the capture of Mipo Odubeko.

The teenager was poached from Manchester United amid plenty of interest from other clubs but it was the Hammers who won the race to sign him and it has paid off spectacularly with seven goals in six games since he signed for the Hammers.

Sam Caiger has had an excellent season for the under-18s

Kai Corbett, Veron Parkes, Lennon Peake, Amadou Diallo, Gael Kileba and Kamari Simon Swyer all have played their part in a successful season, with Diallo appearing several times for the 23s and most recently, Odubeko scoring with his first touch in an under-23s 23 victory at home to Norwich City

The campaign has not been without its disappointments though, the most glaring was a defeat in the FA Youth Cup to Charlton Athletic on penalties as they exited the competition at the third round stage.

But, much like the under-23s, the Hammers look in decent shape at the younger age groups. Odubeko is particularly standing out as a special talent, as are Diallo, Caiger and Ashby, who will be hoping for more regular under-23 game time if and when the season resumes.



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