A season wouldn’t be complete in the Premier League without some contract drama, would it? It also wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t an argument about how the manager handles young players in his squad, right?
Well, the 23/24 season is currently presenting us with the double whammy of a contract negotiation gone south with a young player by the name of Divin Mubama. The 19-year-old has reportedly refused to sign a contract extension keeping him at the club beyond this coming summer.
Supposedly he isn’t satisfied with his game time and needs to know he will be given more first team appearances if he is to stay at the club. David Moyes has publicly aired his views on the situation too, insinuating that Mubama would be making a mistake not to sign the contract and continue his West Ham career further.
On young players, the boss has said: ‘A lot of [young players] are getting impatient but the bigger problem is their agents want to take them away and get games elsewhere. ‘So many are making the wrong decisions. There’s a few boys left here who have made incredibly wrong decisions. They’re in a great environment here. We’re a football club who want to put young players in.’
My initial reaction to that was to think he’s not wrong. Moyes also made clear in his statement how much he and his staff like Mubama.
The fact that the 2023 Young Hammer of the Year has been included in his squads so often is a testament to that. I think fans in general can be too quick to criticise managers for not playing youngsters when they show some promise and talent, but as Moyes hints himself here, there’s plenty of time left in Divin’s career to impress at this club – this is just the start for him.
Mubama has been brilliant in his appearances so far and has been unlucky not to have a couple more goals against his name, unless he wants to change his name to ‘OG’. He’s got real energy and enthusiasm, something we can be accused of lacking as a team at times.
But the manager is right to, well, manage him. That is his job by definition. If every Premier League manager gave in to the demands of every player under the age of 21, or more to the point gave in to the demands of the agents of the under-21’s, the league would be a mess.
A player would have to be incredibly special, a rare talent, to be given everything they want on the spot. The problem is that fans can see young players such as Mubama as a sticking plaster. They see a problem and want a quick fix, which in their mind comes in the form of an undoubtedly talented, but young, footballer.
Moyes has a good history with young players and we need to remember that – he knows what he’s doing here. There are a few high profile examples that come to mind. He handed Wayne Rooney his debut at the age of 16, and continued to manage his career in relation to his age and experience at Everton.
He also worked closely with a young Ross Barkley and Jack Rodwell at Everton – although they didn’t reach the heights of Rooney of course. Our European escapades have given Moyes a good chance to work out youth players, especially group games that were more for vanity than points.
In the defeat to Zagreb in 21/22 he fielded Jamal Baptiste, Aji Alese, Manny Longelo, Harrison Ashby and Sonny Perkins. In the Conference League win over FCSB in 22/23, Ben Johnson, Kaelan Casey, Harrison Ashby, Keenan Appiah-Forson, Conor Coventry, Oliver Scarles, Kamarai Swyer, Freddie Potts and Divin Mubama all got an opportunity to play.
The problem sometimes with being generous with first team appearances such as this, is that players run before they can jump, agents smell the chance to up their requests and fans want to see more of them. We can’t blame players like Mubama for wanting more playing time and more money – it’s the modern game. Careers are short and they see players being brought in and paid insane money.
I don’t have the answer for this conundrum, it’s part of today’s game that I hate. But it would be hard to be motivated when you know all of your teammates are earning more than you and putting in equal graft.
We can see that Mubama fits in well to this team and he has undeniable talent, something we should nurture. He would be worth a punt in increasing his contract offering. Moyes is right, so many young players see the grass as being greener on the other side.
It is hard to break into Premier League teams now with so many internationals being signed, and you have to really impress and show the right attitude. Hopefully this will be resolved soon and it won’t get too messy and public.
I want Mubama to stay and I don’t mind him being overpaid somewhat, but he has to prove his worth and leave everything he has on the pitch.