There is a phrase in the English language of ‘sending someone to Coventry’, which means to deliberately ostracise someone. This phrase originates from a 17th century English Civil War punishment, when Coventry was a Parliamentary stronghold and the king’s soldiers were so hated that Royalist prisoners were sent to Coventry, where it was felt they would be ignored.
But this phrase has a slightly different connotation to us West Ham fans in that our own Coventry was sent out time and time again before finally, during this latest transfer window, he found a new home. Yes our own Connor Coventry has finally signed a permanent contact at another club and will now ply his trade in south London at Charlton Athletic.
Conor is yet another academy graduate who has failed to be a permanent first team squad player. The writing for Conor was definitely on the wall. Conor joined West Ham at the ripe old age of 10 and was soon showing promise being named the Academy Player of the Year for 2018.
He was subsequently rewarded with his first professional contract and made his first team debut as a substitute in our win in the League Cup soon after. He continued to make strides that led to him being granted a new contract and a Premier League debut.
However the wheels soon came off what looked like a promising West Ham career and he was soon out on loan at a variety of clubs. First up was a trip to Lincoln City soon followed by a visit to Peterborough. This was followed by a slightly prolonged stay in Milton Keynes where he scored his first professional goal.
Then it was off to Rotherham before a final return to the Hammers at the start of this season. In his six seasons, Coventry made only 10 appearances for West Ham before joining Charlton Athletic last month.
This stat alone made it pretty clear that like many Academy graduates before him, Conor would have to move away to progress his career. It’s a fact that many do. Yes there have been some notable Academy successes. Who can forget that our Academy was home to the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Jermaine Defoe and my own personal favourite, Michael Carrick.
But for every success story there are those who have moved away to maintain a professional football career. I am old enough to remember watching two great youth teams. The first contained Rio and Frank and almost defeated a talented Liverpool team featuring Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen but other than maybe Chris Coyne, I challenge you to name another West Ham starter in that first XI back in 1996 other than Rio and Frank?
Moving forward to that youth team which included Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. That was the record breaking side of 1999. Again it’s a similar story with Cole and Carrick being the stars but even the hat trick hero of the first game, Bertie Brayley, didn’t get a sniff of first team action.
The team did contain a certain Richard Garcia who I saw play a few times but again it is a similar story. There have been many false dawns. I was there to see Freddie Sears score the winner against Blackburn on his debut in 2018 and a week later when he clipped the post at Everton, just a few inches to the other side of the post and it would have been a second winning goal to two games.
From then on it was a downhill spiral. There was just one more goal scored in the remaining 44 appearances. I thought I had seen the debut of the new Tony Cottee instead it was that of Simone Zaza.
And what of Reece Oxford? Now he was the real deal. Err, maybe not. An outstanding game against Arsenal was as good as it got. Voted the top youth prospect in England and the second youngest starter in Premier League history his career has since petered out, well it has in my eyes.
And there is more. Recently there has almost been a fan uprising when Jeremy Ngakia, Grady Diangana and more recently Harrison Ashby left the club but not one of those players have yet to light a fire at their new clubs. And then there was the time I was pleading for a first team start for a certain Spanish youth team member to start a game.
Scoring seven goals in seven games for our under 23’s Tony Martinez looked the real deal. Sidelined with an injury, he returned to score a further 12 goals from 11 games.
In January 2018, Martinez finally made his full West Ham debut against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup. It was an abject affair only highlighted by the fact that, another academy prospect, Josh Cullen has his two front teeth knocked out and it was just an hour’s drive for you truly.
The list goes on. Some may say that so many of the academy players were not given a chance by the various West Ham managers. The fact remains that very few have ever gone on to Premier League greatness.
Instead they have moved away so as to have great football careers albeit in leagues lower than the Premier League. I hope Conor the very best and only time will tell if the club has made the right decision. History says that they probably have but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.