When Conor Coventry was preparing for this season and wondering how it would pan out, a January loan move to Rotherham wasn’t what he would’ve been hoping for, but I’m certain it’s what he would have expected. He’s always been spoken about as a promising young talent but he has never really been given that all important opportunity to prove it.
Since making his debut in an 8-0 demolition of Macclesfield Town back in 2018 Coventry has, on several occasions, been on the verge of breaking into the first team. Yet he has only been trusted with nine first-team appearances in five years. We just don’t give the youngsters a proper chance anymore.
Six of those eight appearances have come this season, but only three of them have been starts and all of them have come in the Europa Conference League. Coventry has performed well when called upon and has barely put a foot wrong but he hasn’t been given enough time to prove he warrants a start over the likes of Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek and Flynn Downes.
Although I really like Coventry, he just isn’t an upgrade on the options ahead of him. It’s just unfortunate timing that when he’s ready to break through we have a great crop of players in his position. His departure on loan to Rotherham again was probably expected and it’s the best option for him.
Young players need to play and sitting on the bench at West Ham wasn’t going to help develop his game or his chances to play for the club in the future. He’s already proving why he has been so highly rated at the club, with Millers boss Matt Taylor claiming the Irishman has a great chance to go on and play Premier League football after his loan spell. But will that be with West Ham? I’m not so sure.
Soon to be 23 years old, time is ticking for him and I think the only way that Coventry would properly break into this West Ham team is if we disastrously get relegated at the end of the season. The likes of Rice, Soucek and Paqueta will almost certainly leave meaning Downes and Coventry would be the main midfield duo in the Championship. It felt grim even typing that.
It’s sad that a possible relegation would be his best shot at breaking through because we all want our home-grown players to do well but it’s the harsh reality that whilst he’s good enough to play for us, he just isn’t an improvement. Unless he sets the world alight in South Yorkshire, I can almost certainly see him leaving permanently in the summer to a low-end Premier League or high-end Championship side.
The Irishman will consider this another season wasted when he could have been getting first team football elsewhere. He needs the trust to play a run of games at the top level to prove himself and currently he won’t get that at West Ham under Moyes despite the Scotsman’s supposed love for the RB model.
The lack of trust in Coventry and other youth prodigies is a big worry. We’ve gone from producing some of the best talents like Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and most recently Rice, to refusing to give our youth chances. Too often we’ve raised an exciting player who’s been on the verge of the first team only to have them sit on the bench or ship them out on loan.
This stagnates their growth and we then sell them on to lower league opposition for a small fee — a pointless process for all involved. We’ve let a number of promising youngsters go in recent years including the likes of Josh Cullen, Grady Diangana, Jeremy Ngakia, Aji Alese and now Harrison Ashby which is disappointing to see.
Although it is still early days for some of them, none of these players have gone on to cause shockwaves at their respective clubs. This shows that we let some go at the right time, but I also believe that others deserved a run of games in the first team which would have allowed them to prove their worth.
The obvious example is Diangana, which is still a sore one because I truly believe that by selling him we ruined an extremely promising career. The recent departure of Ashby to Newcastle is one I think we will come to regret and according to Mark Noble, his reason for leaving was the lack of first-term opportunities which he fully deserved.
If Coventry is smart, he will be looking for the exit door this summer and he won’t be short of suitors. West Ham need to start trusting the youth more because our prospects are starting to look elsewhere for opportunities and it will eventually come back to bite us.