West Ham’s academy setup at Chadwell Heath, the former first team training ground, underwent a major restructure last summer after the under-23s relegation to division two of the Premier League 2 structure. Two seasons ago, Declan Rice and Toni Martinez-inspired youngsters secured promotion to the top flight of lower division. The Spaniard rattled in 19 goals for the team while at the back, an emerging Rice skippered the side to glory at centre half.
Under the watch of the duo, the under-23s have embarked on an unbeaten league season so far prior to the Covid-19 pandemic suspension as they sit atop of division two, three points clear of second-placed Manchester United (who also revamped their academy structure). This season, the Hammers reached the Premier League Champions Cup quarter finals for the first time ever – and won, going down to ten men against Derby County but prevailing in a penalty shootout at Pride Park. Players like Bernardo Rosa, Amadou Diallo, Manny Longelo and Jeremy Ngakia have all stepped up in the absence of others. Ngakia so much so that he is now a part of the first team setup with David Moyes. Then you can go down to the under-18 side, who signed Mipo Odubeko from Man Utd earlier this season. He’s played just once for the 23s but found the net when he got off the bench with his first touch.
Dmitri Halajko said “They’re a really tight group and work really hard. They want to do well. They’re.a hard-working group of lads and when a challenge comes, they want to rise to it and do well. They don’t shy away from any challenges and we encourage them to push forwards and take every opportunity and not wait for it to happen.”
It seems that the Hammers’ decision to revamp the coaching staff at Chadwell Heath, plus the £4m revamp of the facility itself, could be starting to pay-off far quicker than anticipated. The much fabled and vaunted “Academy of Football” in east London has run a little dry in recent years. Rice, Diangana and now Ngakia have started to break that mould, with the likes of Silva, Holland, Coventry very close to doing the same. The future is looking a bit brighter thanks to the work at Chadwell Heath.
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