Written by @farehamhammer
During the last ten years or so every time the Club has been on a bad run there has been an echo “Play the kids, they will play for the shirt!” I would just shake my head. You can play for the shirt all you want but if you’re not good enough, you won’t make one ounce of difference. West Ham, during the halcyon days of Ron Greenwood, became world renowned as The Academy of Football. Due to The Club playing stylish, inventive football on the deck. Football with a smile on its face. At the same time bringing through talented youngsters which were schooled to play the type of football associated with the Club. Greenwood, would like nothing more than seeing a youngster with the ball at his feet expressing himself. Youngsters thrived at West Ham, and the door to the first team spot was always open. If you were good enough you played. Time after time, our youngsters graduated into the first team and flourished.
But those screaming: “Play the kids” up until recently were living in the past. Believing that every kid emerging from The Academy, was going to be the next: Moore, Peters, Hurst, Brooking, Devonshire and the rest. The harsh reality being those days were long gone. The Academy was producing quantity not quality. You only need to look at where some of these graduates ply their trade now and had to accept the harsh reality that our youth were simply just not good enough. People had difficulty accepting this reality, and on one occasion Sam Allardyce got crucified for throwing the youngsters “To the wolves” For playing the “kids” against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup. This after match, moaning that Sam was not giving the youngsters a chance. The “kids” were 21 & 22. At that age you should be knocking on the first team door. The youngsters were simply not good enough! Even my personal favourite, Sebastian Lletget a skilful attacking midfielder never made the grade. It is a tough world making it as a professional footballer at any Club in the first place!
Like the one ‘West Ham won the world Cup’. The belief that we were still The Academy of Football, was stale in the extreme. Nothing more than a myth. The title of The Academy of Football was a mantle that Southampton Football Club could rightly claim. Talented player after talented player has graduated through The South Coast Club’s Academy into the first team 16, 17 and 18 years of age. If you are good enough Southampton Football Club will play you! In an earlier article I stated, “That it was time for The Academy to start delivering”. If not questions would have to be asked of Terry Westley, The Academy Director. However after many lean years, The Club is well on its way to reclaiming its title of The Academy of Football. We have a real talented group of youngsters at The Club, whom I believe should be given the chance to play at senior level.
The youngsters who really excite me are Declan Rice, Reece Oxford, Domingos Quina, Toni Martinez, Sead Haksabanovic, Nathan Holland and my favourite Martin Samuelsson. Sadly at 22 I don’t think Josh Cullen or Reece Burke are going to make it at The Club. Hands up here – Terry Westley has done a fantastic job on bringing the youngsters on. Even when players have returned to The Club, with their confidence at a low ebb, due to a loan not working out for whatever reason. Westley has rebuilt their confidence, and got them playing to the top of their game again. I’m not saying that the youngsters should be playing in every match or in whole games, but they should and MUST get game time. The frustrating thing is Slaven Bilic, not having any intention of fully integrating them into the first team squad at all. Christ on a bike! Even Sam, would have the youth playing against the first team on a Friday! Slaven does not go and watch youth matches, or get them to train with the first team. What chance does a youngster have of breaking into the first team, when the manager shows no interest? Talk about coming up against a brick wall!
This is unlikely to change, as long as Slaven Bilic is manager of West Ham United. He is a dead man walking and knows it. Gone at the end of the season, without a shadow of a doubt. I don’t even think Slaven wants to be at The Club anymore, if the truth be known. I have seen The Board lackey’s, promote the failed Derby and Luton manager and our Academy Director Terry Westley credentials to become full time manager. Westley would be the cheap option and should not get the job full time in a million years! But he may well be a sensible option short term option, and could well stabilise The Club. Also opening the door to the youth, as far as a first team squad is concerned. Ron Greenwood used to say: “Football at its best, is a game of beauty, intelligence and art over brawn. Despite what the gloom and gloom merchant say all is not bleak. We have senior players and youth players who are capable of delivering on Ron Greenwood’s vision on how the game should be played. Time to return to The Club’s roots, let The Kids play!
We are more than a football club, we’re a way of life!
(Edited by Danny Twigg)