Home-grown status in Premier League football was created to incentivise clubs to bring through young talent and give those players a pathway into first team football. However, in many instances it can often stunt a career of a player on the periphery of being not quite good enough for the first team, but too good for youth football, so they find themselves in somewhat of a limbo.
This is due to the fact, for registration purposes for both European and Premier League football, a club must have a certain number of players who have progressed through the system, and therefore been at the club for a certain number of years or simply British and trained at another team’s academy. To be precise, eight players of a 25-man squad must be deemed home-grown and two of which must have come through a side’s academy process.
One West Ham United player currently stuck in the land of limbo is Conor Coventry. The Republic of Ireland youth international has been a product of the Hammers’ academy since the age of 10 and therefore qualifies for one of those two crucial ‘club home-grown’ spots.
The other being, Ben Johnson, who I covered in last month’s edition of Blowing Bubbles. I am all for the home-grown status rule; however, in Coventry’s case it is monumentally failing his football career.
He is now 23-years-old and has made just 58 league appearances in his career. Just one of those League appearances was in the claret and blue of West Ham, which was a mere two-minute cameo off the bench. In his time, he has made a number of EFL appearances with stints at Peterborough and Rotherham in the Championship, and MK Dons and Lincoln in League One.
His spell at MK Dons perhaps the most impressive as he helped the Dons reach the play-offs in 2022 whilst on loan. Slight in stature, the Hammers number 32 had perhaps hoped to be the next Mark Noble.
Hard-working and technically gifted, he was destined to be the next cab off the block following his stint in the Championship at such a young age at Peterborough, but it just hasn’t worked out for him. He has struggled to even make the bench for the Hammers this season, and with the academy impressing at both the under 21s and under 18s level time really is ticking in Coventry’s Hammers career.
George Earthy, Freddie Potts and Daniel Rigge are all likely to be chasing down his place as they qualify for that all important home-grown status spot; however, they have the advantage of youth on their side. Potts, in particular, has been receiving rave reviews whilst on loan at Wycombe. Earthy has been impressive for the youth team for a couple of years now, and Rigge, who joined from Manchester City, has already signed his professional terms at our club.
At some point the club will have to make a decision on the future of Coventry for both his sake and the team’s sake. Coventry could well be blocking the future development of the likes of Potts, Earthy and Rigge. Whilst, Coventry’s career is in real danger of becoming stagnant.
He has made just two Under-21 appearances for the Hammers this season contributing one assist and he is really at the age now where it is approaching ‘now or never’ territory. It was a lovely moment for him last season to be involved in Prague, albeit, from the bench.
For someone who has been a part of the club for so long, to have those moments with Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Divin Mubama would have been special for him. Like I mentioned last month with Ben Johnson, I feel as though it is time for Coventry to move in January or the summer.
West Ham United, like any team, should have a duty of care for their players. They cannot hold a career back to tick a box on the home-grown front. But at the same time, the Hammers do have talent aplenty in its ranks so they have to create a pathway for them to develop as well.
So, for all parties, I firmly believe it is best to allow Coventry to explore the market to see what is out there for him. He has already seen his place in the Republic of Ireland youth set-up go and things will only go further south for him if he continues to not get minutes under his belt.