While we all eagerly anticipate the final stretch in what has been a wonderful Farewell Boleyn season, we mustn’t forget that there are a number of academy players currently out on loan learning their trade and hoping to eventually play a big part in West Ham’s bright new era in the Olympic Stadium. Th e foundations that our great club have been founded, and subsequently grown upon, rely heavily on the calibre of our youth prospects and there is currently no shortage of exciting talent waiting in the wings, ready to make their mark in claret and blue.
So just weeks aft er our most recent academy success story celebrated 12 years of service at the club with a hugely deserved testimonial, let’s update you on a number of youngsters currently plying their trade on loan at lower division clubs ahead of what could be the start of something equally as impressive as Noble’s West Ham career.
Having made his first team debut under Sam Allardyce last season, it was no surprise to see Burke sent out on loan to gain first team experience at the beginning of the season. Bradford City jumped at the chance to take our promising centre-half for the season and both parties haven’t looked back, with the Bantams pushing for a League One play-off spot this season.
Burke has made 23 appearances for Bradford this season, scoring one goal, and has become something of a fans’ favourite down at Valley Parade. Following a recent 1-0 victory over Southend, Bradford fans took to Twitter to wax lyrical about the young Hammer, with one fan saying: ‘Reece Burke is going to be a superstar, hands down our player of the season so far.’ While another joked: “Can we keep you for another year?!” It’s a refreshing sight to see a youngster going on loan and becoming such an important member of a lower league side. If he can make that step up to the Premier League then I think we should all expect Burke to really become a superstar for us in the future.
While Burke has got the whole of Bradford drooling over his performances this season, Samuelsen had the entire country in awe at one point this season. Th e 18-year-old Justin Bieber look-a-like was the star of the show as Peterborough United took Premier League West Brom to a penalty shoot-out in a televised FA Cup tie earlier this year, which they eventually lost. But the Norwegian youngster showcased his skills, tricks and ability to play with ease against topflight opposition. There is no doubt Samuelsen has a bright future ahead of him and if he continues to improve then he’ll soon be an important member of our first team.
Diego Poyet was in and out of the first team under Allardyce last season but this season he’s been sent out on loan to earn some more first team experience, which is understandable given the high level of competition for places in our first team’s midfield. So he’s back at Charlton, where he played before signing for us two summers ago.
Since arriving he has made just six appearances, and it must be difficult for him to play for a club currently staring relegation to League One in the face and with supporter protests going on almost every week. However, he showed glimpses of talent when given the chance last season and if he can come back in the summer and impress Bilic in pre-season then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him given another chance in the first team z
Of course, he was one of a number of youngsters given a chance by Bilic in the Europa League earlier in the campaign, and he did enough then to warrant the belief that he can become a regular for us in the future.
Elliot Lee has been the subject of many a cry from Hammers fans to be given a chance in the first team, particularly through a number of striker shortages during Allardyce’s latter years at the club. Lee impressed during our short-lived Europa League campaign last summer, scoring the only goal in our 1-0 away victory of FC Lusitanos at the beginning of July.
Now the 21-year-old is battling it out with Colchester United at the bottom of League One, netting his second goal for the club in sublime fashion as the U’s beat Doncaster Rovers 4-1 on Good Friday – a wonderful curling finish in to the top corner from 20 yards out. But having previously enjoyed loan spells with the likes of Southend, Luton and Blackpool, netting a combined six goals in 31 appearances in the lower leagues, you have to wonder whether he really will be able to eventually make that step up to first-team duties. We all want Lee to succeed at the club, but will he ever get the chance?