With authoritative pre-season wins against Wycombe, Ipswich, and Brentford, we saw Haller deliver a hat-trick via slick link-up play from a Championship-matured Grady Diangana and the showcasing of other Academy youth talents such as Jamal Baptiste, Connor Coventry, Josh Cullen, and Joseph Anang.
West Ham’s Academy has certainly had a resurgence: Declan Rice is an England international sought by top six clubs, Grady Diangana’s loan spell in the Championship produced a matured player, and with the likes of Ben Johnson and Jeremey Ngakia making first team starts, the club is no longer relying solely on captain Mark Noble carrying the torch for what was once referred to simply as “the Academy”.
This newly restored Academy would appear to want to uphold the tradition of West Ham United, as well as the plans of David Moyes to turn the team into a scrappy, English side with East End dedication and youth.
But with every bubble blown there’s always a burst waiting to happen in the ascent.
The board has no money to invest in this transfer market, so the West Ham Academy seems the only likely place to draw talent and stability from, but rather than rely on that talent to grow a new first team, the board has decided to collect spoils from it.
Grady Diangana was sold to West Brom for £18million before being able to run out with the first team at the London stadium in the Premier League, leaving fans and team mates gutted; Ngakia has left for Watford, and insecurity looms around Rice wearing the claret and blue for another season.
All of this has led to a great upheaval with even Mark Noble pronouncing his indignation on Twitter: ‘As captain of this football club I’m gutted, angry and sad that Grady has left, great kid with a great future!’
This uncharacteristic disapproval from Noble of the club’s management quickly clocked up 74,000 likes on Twitter, showing the disdain for the decision making, and could only come from his deep-seated protection for club and academy.
Perhap instead of a David Moyes’ master strategy of forming a homegrown, youthful team from the Academy, we are seeing the likes of a stingy board selling the only players of interest to other clubs to build capital that they aren’t willing to sacrifice.
The question is: Should we be excited for the runout of new academy students like 16-year-old Jamal Baptiste, who Ogbonna and the press hailed him as a composed defender in pre-season?
Or should they be wary of the day another rising hope is burst, this time perhaps Declan Rice to Chelsea?
If Mark Noble’s words are to be taken into account West Ham is in for a reckoning of this dilemma sooner or later.