What a dreadful season it has been for everyone associated with West Ham United. Of course, we’ve had the sad news of David Gold’s passing, constant criticism levelled at David Moyes, and an inconsistent showing from a squad that has had a fair bit of investment.
Championship football next season isn’t off the table either, but surely the team will have just about enough to avoid what would be a disastrous scenario? In the meantime, West Ham’s hierarchy have a decision to make over some of the Hammers’ most talented youngsters, with the club’s under-21s squad having five players whose contracts are due to expire in the summer.
Many fans are concerned that West Ham’s esteemed academy might be starting to crumble, though, particularly after the likes of Pierre Ekwah, Aji Alese, Harrison Ashby, Manny Longelo and Will Greenidge all decided to depart the club this season despite having bright futures ahead of them.
In the summer months, attention will turn to some of West Ham’s youngsters who have expiring contracts and the undoubted lure of first-team Championship or League One football elsewhere.
There is an argument to suggest that some of them might’ve warranted more chances in the Premier League this season also, particularly given the team of misfits we’ve witnessed, all of which has contributed to a horrific atmosphere in the stadium, negativity around the club rearing its ugly head once again, and the team now facing a relegation battle with Premier League odds of 17/4 on the Hammers going down representing great value considering the dross West Ham fans have been served up this season. It has been dreadful, hasn’t it?
Whatever division the club is in next season, some emerging academy talents might warrant a contract extension, particularly if the worst does happen and the team is facing the likes of QPR, Swansea and Stoke City. With that in mind, let’s look at five youngsters who have expiring contracts at the London Stadium.
A name many West Ham fans will recognise after putting in a number of impressive performances at youth level, Jamal Baptiste is a centre-back with big potential. A fallout with David Moyes appears to have slowed down his progress, though, with the Scottish manager suggesting that Baptiste has let himself down on a few occasions, although details around what might’ve happened aren’t clear.
Whatever the reason, Baptiste’s journey at the club appears to have stagnated somewhat, with the highly-rated defender failing to play since an outing against Monaco in the Premier League International Cup.
A dynamic midfield player with bags of pace, an eye for goal, and excellent vision, Kamarai Swyer’s talent cannot be questioned, but whether or not he has the attitude to make it at the highest level remains to be seen. A regular for the Hammers’ under-21s this season, Swyer has also had minutes in the first team after playing against Romanian side FCSB.
A Republic of Ireland youth international with clear potential, Armstrong Okoflex’s undoubted ability resulted in Swansea taking the Dublin-born winger on-loan during the first half of the season. With Championship football under this belt, Okoflex returned to the Hammers’ under-21 squad with the hope of securing more minutes.
Although game time has been fairly limited since returning to London, the Irish talent might be worth keeping on for another year or two.
Levi Laing’s ability is evident. Even the most negative of Hammers fans could see that during his senior debut in the Europa Conference League. Whether or not West Ham’s former Arsenal junior has done enough to earn a new deal at the club remains to be seen, but surely his chances have increased as the season has progressed.
Another emerging prospect who could potentially leave the club for nothing in the summer, Keenan Appiah-Forson’s future is also up for discussion. A tenacious and energetic midfielder, like the aforementioned Kamarai Swyer, he also featured against Romanian side FCSB, making his first team debut in the process. Appiah-Forson clearly isn’t the finished article but West Ham’s hierarchy might want to keep him on still.