Written by @StevenMcCarthy9
One of the things I keep hearing about Slaven is how much he loves the club, now I don’t want to get involved in saying whether or not this is true!But as West Ham fans I think the majority of us will say that one of the best things about supporting our wonderful club, has always been the youth prospects we develop and introduce into the side!
Yet as Ex and a few of the people I’ve spoken to at the club will back, Slav and his team have been to watch our youth side just once in the 2 and a quarter seasons he has been here! For me, that is completely unacceptable, regardless of what club you are at, if the Manager, assistant manager or a member of his trusted staff do not watch the academy sides then there is a big problem.
I can understand people saying that maybe there is a lack of quality players who can really break into the first team coming through, but the conversations I’ve had with people at the club about Oxford, Rice and numerous prospects, all mirrored the sentiments that our academy possess talents of the highest quality! Bilic gave Oxford his first League start against Arsenal, and we all know how well that went…so why have we seen both a change in Bilic’s approach to Academy players and youth introduction? I personally believe that Billic has awful youth management skills, with the handling of the previously mentioned Oxford and this seasons youth prospect in the excellent Declan Rice, being simply atrocious in my eyes.
Rice was substituted in a similar manner to Oxford, at half time after a mistake that led to a goal.
Surely this is one of the most cruel things for a player at any level to face, let alone a youngster attempting to break through.With Oxford it was against Leicester and Rice it was Newcastle, however both mistakes were also made when older more experienced players were culpable for their part in the goals. Rice has subsequently featured in part after this mistake, but Oxford has never been the same since. And whilst you could argue this to be proof of Oxford lacking the mental strength required to play at the highest level, I think we should we also be questioning why a talent once hailed as a future England captain, has so dramatically fallen from grace! Not only unable to secure a regular starting position, squad place or challenge the first team here or even Reading, then I think we need a serious look at Man Management.
I believe that of course whilst there are multiple factors that could be to blame, the lack of intensity and standard in Billic’s training playing a significant role. We all saw the damming stats on Monday Night Football about our total lack of sprints and distance covered, but this has been a worry for over a year now! Players leaving have condemned the standard of training and people often under estimate just how much that can impact a footballers overall game.
If you don’t train to a high level, you lose that match sharpness, the ability to run that extra yard at the same speed or frequency! But far more relevant to this article, you massively inhibit the development of youth players, who unless they stay after hours with coaches, on the pitch or in the gym are left with a standard of training that wasn’t fit for Reading Football Club….
Our integration for academy players over the past few seasons has been shocking, particularly in attacking positions.
Billic was seemingly unwilling to give either Fletcher or Martinez much of a chance up top, and given the struggling competition at times, though injury or simply a total lack of form, I find this baffling and also a bit maddening.
What I do not understand is why you would not take a gamble in a cup competition. West Ham fans are a hard bunch to please, I think all of us are pretty openly going to admit that, however if you play a team with 3 or 4 youngsters in a cup game, not only will we give you leeway, we will really get behind and support the decision! We may lose, but I guarantee that you’ll have the fans respect by trying to develop that title of Academy of Football.
I’ll end the article on a slightly different tone, because for me our Academy staff have always deserved more praise from the footballing world. By increasing Academy involvement, not only would you boost overall youth team and staff morale, but you also give the fans something to feel proud of. The incredible people working with our youngsters are so passionate about what they do, and you compliment their work in a way that I think only proud parents and mentors can understand when they witness someone they have developed succeed.
I want to see us bring through players from the academy and I want to see them succeed, but more importantly, I want to see them given the best chance to succeed! The future talent in the likes of Martinez, Holland, Cullen,Quina and Saed all deserve a chance, I don’t believe they are going to get under the current manager. Whilst I realise that not all of them will be world beaters, I trust our academy staffs judgement and the performances they are giving for them to believe that they should get a chance in the first team.
I’m @StevenMcCarthy9 and thank you for reading my rant!