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Well… Our Europa League journey has finally come to an end before a ball has been kicked in the Premier League.

But let’s look at the positives from a very long but competitive pre-season for the now known “Bilic Babes”.

Some say that the prolonged pre-season will hinder West Ham’s chances of really making an impact this season, but I beg to differ. The games we play against Local Essex and South East sides is becoming a regular thing and its beginning to question whether these games actually help us improve as a squad.

With the exception of Norwich, games against Colchester, Charlton, Southend, Canvey Island and even Chelmsford City (no disrespect) hardly test our first team but really it’s to help the development of the Development Squad.

The Europa league saw us play a part time Andorran, Professional Maltese and Romanian sides and this, I felt, had a far greater impact on our youth team.

I witnessed each Europa League home game this season and although we struggled, even with some first team players, it was very promising.

Here are some players that made a vital impact and who we should expect to feature in the first team in the next couple of seasons…

Reece Burke

Football - West Ham United v FC Lusitans - UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round First Leg - Upton Park, London, England - 15/16 , 2/7/15 West Ham United's Reece Burke Mandatory Credit: Action Images / John Sibley

We all know what to expect from Reece, as we saw last season and he didn’t disappoint.

He is looking more established as each day passes and is starting to build mass onto his youthful frame. He is getting better in the air, tracking runs and is starting to communicate more on the field with the senior players.

No doubt he will be sniffing around the first team, but part of me feels a loan to an established League one club would benefit him. He us someone who grows as he plays, so make him play regularly.

Reece Oxford

West Ham United v FC Lusitans - UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round First Leg

The “next” Rio Ferdinand according to some at the club showed he can be a very good player.

The boy isn’t even 18 yet, but has a far greater advantage over other academic players. Featuring mostly in a deep midfielders role, just protecting the two centre backs and dropping back when the wing backs push on, he showed he adapts to the style of play.

Great in the air, fantastic distribution and gets stuck into challenges, he even picked up a yellow card on his debut against Lusitans but that didn’t phase him as his continued to commit himself.

I feel he would learn more in the senior team rather than a loan, he needs to learn from Kouyate, Obiang and Noble.

Diego Poyet

Birkikara v West Ham United - UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round Second Leg

The son of Gus is clearly a more senior player than the other players on this list, and has grown into a Scott Parker role at the club. Like Oxford, he gets stuck in with hard tackles as we saw against the away leg at Astra.

His passing and vision is the getting better and is a like for like replacement for Mark Noble (who I think is starting to decline, too comfortable and pre-occupied being the poster boy of West Ham).

Technically he is just what we need within the squad just in front of the defence. He has to be maintained within the first team at all costs.

Lewis Page

FC Astra v West Ham United - UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round Second Leg

Lewis is a player who I’ve heard of but not really seen play and you can see elements of brilliance which has been spoken about at the club.

A great left foot and good tackler but just needs to learn to track the runners as he does like to creep inside and push forward. You could argue that he doesn’t have enough support from the CM and CB on the left.

He shows passion and for an 18-year-old to do that is great because you know it’s real passion for the club he loves.

He could challenge Stephen Hendrie as the first team’s second choice left-back but, like Burke, I feel a loan to an established League One or Championship relegated club challenging for the league would help him progress.

Elliot Lee

FC Lusitans v West Ham United - UEFA Europa League First Qualifying Round Second Leg

A natural finisher as we saw a couple of preseasons ago becoming our highest goalscorer during that summer, he should be given his chances in the first team.

His work rate is what he is also known for and regularly makes himself a nuisance for the opposition by running into channels and floating the ball towards the near post towards our players. He has a professional attitude and he should being the spawn of Rob Lee, he has matured as a player on and off the field.

On loan at Luton Town he never really got regular playing time but grabbed a couple of crucial goals.

I feel he could learn from Carroll and Payet this season, so I would keep him within the first team this season unless a championship club offer regular playing time.

He’s got one year left on his contract and its a big season for Lee. His career could be cemented at West Ham if he takes his chances, or he could sign for a team like Peterborough on a free at the end of the season.

Josh Cullen

Southend United v West Ham United - Pre Season Friendly

Josh has been featured in majority of games this pre-season and definitely has the ability to shine and be a key assister for the team. He has similar ability to Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse, he could come into the squad if Lanzini or Payer do not feature.

He has great feet and his dribbling game is coming strong. Cullen has proved he can take a shot too, especially from outside the box. He is a good crosser of the ball and he could link up well with Aaron Cresswell given the chance of first team football.

If I had to choose the next youth player to make his premier league debut, Josh would be my surprise package.

Verdict

There’s my view on the “Bilic Babes”.

The pre-season might have been disappointing for the first team by not having Europa League football, but I give Slaven his credit. He has given the academy players the chance to shine, some less so than others, like Knoyle, Parfit-Williams and Brown.

But the pre-season has been a huge learning curve for the youngsters to integrate with the senior team in competitive games. Playing a friendly is a different experience to playing a game that means something, whether it’s for three points or progression in the cups.

I’m pleased to have seen a taster of what the Development Squad has to offer and I am confident that those players can fit in the first team very well in the future, even at the expense of European football.

P.S. Good Luck to Astra in the cup, hope they make the group stages like last year. Is good to see a minnow compete with a giant. Would be great to see them get Dortmund in the group.

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