Despite only three wins and a draw from Manuel Pellegrini first 10 games in charge, there are many positives straws to cling too. One such straw is his willingness to turn to the club’s Academy products. The 8-0 Massacre of Macclesfield saw us finish the game with four graduates on the pitch in the form of Declan Rice, Connor Coventry, Joe Powell and two-goal hero and Man of the Match Grady Diangana.
Having taken his chance to impress with two neat finishes and fearless attacking intent during his debut in the League Cup, Diangana was rewarded with a Premier League bow in the 3-1 win against United. Pellegrini followed this up by turning to the youngster to fill the right sided berth vacated by the injured Yarmolenko against Spurs.
He now seems well placed to at least share the responsibilities of the right wing in the Ukrainian’s absence, having put in another energetic and mature display. The trust the manager has shown must be encouraging to the youth team players, helping them to see there is life in The Academy and giving them genuine hope that their hard work will be recognised and rewarded.
However, Grady’s graduation to sporadic squad player may also feel a little frustrating to his fellow forward Xande Silva. The Portuguese youth international joined the Hammers in the summer for a fee of £1.8 million from Vitoria Guimaraes having learnt his trade at Sporting Lisbon’s famed academy.
He had already amassed 78 senior appearances and forged an impressive record for Portugal’s U20s with five goals in 14 games before landing in east London. Not too dissimilar to Paulo Wanchope, with his long powerful stride and ability to change direction with a trick or quick exchange of pass, you can see what brought him to these shores. To say he hit the ground running upon his arrival would be an understatement.
He was drafted straight into the U23 Premier League 2 squad and scored a match winning hattrick against Spurs on his debut. He followed this with goals against Manchester City and then Arsenal in his next two games.
These early goals, as well as his pace, strength, trickery and his ability to drift out to the wings before attacking inside, caught the attention of not only the management and our ever expectant fanbase but a whole host of clubs operating elsewhere in the football league pyramid.
However despite interest in taking the attacker on loan, the club resisted their overtures and it seemed that he would be in and around the first team picture sooner rather than later. In fact, in the week or so leading up to our league cup clash with Macclesfield, if you would have had to place a bet on which youth player would feature in the game Xandre Silva would have been odds on.
Alas a hamstring injury has stalled his progression, and in his absence Grady has made the step up. However, with his obvious natural, although admittedly raw, talent coupled with our need for more attacking options with Hernandez and Perez continuing to impersonate fish out of water with our attacking style, it surely won’t be long before Silva’s name is added to the names coming out of our resurgent academy.