Written by: Harry Fitzpatrick
Since the days of Moore, Hurst and Peters in the late 50’s and early 60’s, West Ham have had an Academy that any club would be proud of. Every Hammers fan gets excited when they see a youngster’s name on the team sheet for the first time. This was no different for Grady Diangana.
It could be argued that in the last 8 or 9 years, there have been no great stars develop through the youth system. Since James Tomkins’ debut in 2008, only Rice has gone on to make 50 appearances for the first team from the Under-23’s. Of the 28 graduates in that time who made a first-team appearance and subsequently left the club, only Reece Oxford and Junior Stanislas have gone on to play in one of Europe’s top five leagues. This is what makes the Diangana sale so infuriating. We finally had an exciting, attacking Academy prospect who had shown his class in the Championship and was ready to prove his worth in the Premier League. Unfortunately, he will show how good he is at the Hawthorns instead.
With the player wanting to stay and Moyes himself apparently wanting Diangana to remain makes the fact Gold, Sullivan and Brady even sanctioned this sale even more baffling. With the money received for Diangana, it will be intriguing to see if the Leipzig strategy Joe Cole reported Moyes wanted to introduce, where he buys young, cheap players to sell them on for profit in the future, will be implemented. Unfortunately, the club seems to be more interested in throwing all the money at a 27-year old centre back out of our price range, whilst every fan is dreading the thought of Cresswell vs Saint-Maximin, Pepe and Adama Traore in the first 3 weeks of the season. Whether this is Moyes’ decision or the owners, who knows?
In regard to Declan Rice, you get the feeling it’s more when he goes rather than if. Even the most optimistic fan can’t surely expect him to sign a long-term contract or to not have his head turned by Abramovic’s money either this year or next. Everyone can see he has a long England career ahead of him and he has the potential to play in Europe’s top competitions. As much as we would love him to stay, he will be wished all the best when he does eventually go. The key will be the reinvestment of that money and there will be huge pressure on whoever is challenged with the task. We didn’t do a good job with the money we received in the early 2000’s, and 20 years later we can’t make the same mistakes again.
The youth academy is a great way for the club to both make money and develop gems for the future. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, when we developed players for ourselves, it won us three FA Cups over a 16 year span and won England a World Cup. Since we stopped that in the early noughties, we have endured two relegations and have a FA Cup runners medal up to ‘celebrate’. Whether this is due to the lack of academy products in the last decade, or the mismanagement of what we have had is something we will never know.
With a bit of luck, we might sign the next Roberto Carlos with the money. We can all dream, can’t we?