I t’s been a sticky start to life at the London Stadium. Out of Europe, languishing towards the bottom of the Premier League, and fan unrest – reasons for optimism have, frankly, been few and far between.
Look more closely, though, and you’ll find some brighter spots which have the potential to turn around our fortunes. One such spark is Ashley Fletcher, signed on a four-year deal back in July from Manchester United. He could be the bargain of the summer, joining us aft er his Reds deal expired.
Slaven Bilic has been waxing lyrical about Fletcher. He has compared him to Marcus Rashford, who, ironically, stormed ahead of Fletcher in the pecking order at Manchester United leading to his move. A successful loan spell at Barnsley, including a double winner at Wembley, has convinced Bilic of his potential. So what can Fletcher off er? Well, he’s an England under-20 international who has worked his way up through the ranks at Manchester United.
Scoring regularly at the under-16 and under-18 levels, he subsequently netted in each of the final three games of the under-21 team to clinch the Premier League title in 2014/15. Fletcher is tall – very tall. At over six feet he’s a ball-winner in the air. He’s also strong but with a decent touch, as demonstrated in his recent appearances.
He is not a lightweight and doesn’t appear to be as fragile as Andy Carroll, which has got to be a good thing. Perhaps even more importantly, though, he works hard. For example, his finishing has improved after taking private lessons with Allan Russell, a Superior Striker coach who has worked with the likes of Saido Berahino. He clearly wants to improve and be better, and views West Ham as the perfect place to do that. ‘I am very excited to be here. West Ham are a massive club and I am just happy that I can come and further my development here at West Ham.
‘I think it is a club with a lot of ambition…West Ham are a club built on traditions of giving youngsters a run and hopefully I can get my chance as well.’ The most exciting thing for West Ham supporters is his potential. Rashford comparisons aside, his contributions to the side’s efforts have already been widely appreciated by the support.
In an otherwise distinctly average performance in the win against Bournemouth, Fletcher shone, and perhaps most importantly, he has his feet firmly planted on the ground, unlike some other prospects in the recent past. One thing’s for sure. When our strikers are fully fit, Fletcher will add some really interesting competition to the frontline. And if Fletcher can make anywhere near the same impact as Rashford has for Manchester United, perhaps he might play a bigger part in our debut season at the London Stadium than we thought.