Tuesday 25th April will go down as another significant date in the history of West Ham or to be precise The Academy of Football. Our 5-1 FA Cup Youth Final victory against Arsenal in their own backyard was nothing short of spectacular and one that former hammer Kevin Keen and die hard West Ham fan Mark Philips deserve huge credit for as the management team of this talented bunch.
Our opponents Arsenal had some great individual players but clearly did not work under the excellent coaching and tactical awareness that the West Ham players do and played as individuals rather than as a team. Kevin Keen is such a highly-rated coach at that level and it’s no wonder we are playing the way that we are and with Mark Philips’ coaching prowess and his obvious passion, it’s a great combination.
Gerard Prenderville is also an under 18s coach too and I’ve heard nothing but positive praise for his methods. Now let’s talk about the players. What a talented bunch they are, and some of them have already made their mark on the first team.
Divine Mubama leads the line of the under 18s and England under 18s so well and has already scored for the first team in Europe. David Moyes clearly admires the player and thinks he has a big future in the game and I would imagine if Moyes remains manager next year, Mubama will feature even more.
Oliver Scarles, another England under 18s player, was voted man of the match for his performance in the group stages of the conference league in Romania. A very classy left back who looks to be a certain first team player when Aaron Cresswell eventually leaves the club after all these great years or service.
Then you have the captain and wonder goal scorer Gideon Kodua. He has led the side brilliantly as captain and what a goal he scored at such a crucial time. Sporting success runs through his family with his brother Joel a highly rated boxer as well.
Gideon’s goal against Arsenal was very poignant for the youngster, whose parents hail from Ghana, as he was released by Arsenal as a youngster. It was myself who exclusively broke the transfer news that West Ham were keen to sign two Northern Irish players in Callum Marshall and Patrick Kelly.
Marshall has a real eye for goal and cannot stop scoring. Always in the right place at the right time to finish moves and this has been a trait throughout his career. Kelly is the real engine of the team. The sort of player you would hate to play against but love to have on your side.
When you talk about the season West Ham have had, you cannot go into detail without mentioning the two massive West Ham fans we have playing for us in the centre. Lewis Orford played more defensively than usual in the final and defensively he was so solid but it’s in the attacking third where he has offered so many goals and assists that have led him to get national call ups.
What is even more impressive about Lewis is that many won’t realise but he is actually the year group below most of his under 18 teammates. He plays alongside his friend and fellow West Ham supporter George Earthy. Not only did he score in the final but he looks like scoring or creating in every game I’ve ever seen.
From memory I haven’t watched a game without a goal or an assist from the player. It is therefore no surprise that he also has international caps too. Another player who had claret and blue blood is Ryan Battrum. The right back has been going to West Ham since he was a kid and this will really help the likes of him, Orford, Clayton and Earthy have that automatic connection with the fans.
I thought Battrum handled Arsenal’s tricky winger very well during the game and he himself scored an all important goal in the quarter finals to help the lads progress. As mentioned, Reagan Clayton is also a Hammer and a very good player. He is more of a left back by trade but played centre back in this game and made some crucial challenges and interceptions especially when the pressure was on in the second half.
His fellow defender Kaelan Casey played in Europe for us and has also been on the bench in the Premier League this season, again showing how valued he is at the club. He was superb in defence and also popped up with a goal too.
This takes me to Mason Terry who is another local lad with affections for the club. He produced some early saves during the tie which set a great early message that they would have to be at their very best to beat us. By attending some of the under 18s games this season, I have been very lucky to get to know several of the dads of the above mentioned players very well.
It’s delightful to see the great family network they all have with parents who are level headed and can provide the support these players need with the mental challenges the game can throw up. Not only have these players lifted the youth cup they have already topped their league table for the southern area and I believe they will play Man City, who should be the winners of the north league, in a final to determine the overall under 18s champions.
I am sure our boys have every chance of going on to finalise this year’s successes with another win. I believe this is the most talented group of players we have ever had at this age group and it wouldn’t surprise me if all 11 that started the cup final have successful professional careers.
Let’s hope that for most of them, it is in the claret and blue of our beloved West Ham. On our Patreon we have interviewed so many players who have came through the academy on our ex-player interviews.
In total we have over 120 ex player interviews now and these range from all sorts of different eras. We really can’t stress to you the value we think we bring on our Patreon and would urge you to give it a try. We are sure you won’t be disappointed: patreon.com/thewesthamway