So with the season behind us, Bilic providing us with Europa League football and the new look side taking to the Premiers League like ducks to water, we are now at close season.
And whilst the impatient amongst us await the start of the Euros, the launch of the fixture list and the release of a new kit, it isn’t past me to sit and reflect on what we’ve seen, but also look forward to what should be a very exciting and prosperous future.
For a while, the opinion of Sam that our owners had was, whilst he’d done a good job for us and consolidated the side, he wasn’t investing in the future.
Our academy, of which we had been so proud of for producing stars, was not getting much attention. Ultimately, it was important to consolidate and ensure we had Premier League survival, but at what cost?
Money was thrown around, and not all of it was spent successfully, but stay up we did, possibly at the expense of youth and our future.
So Sam eventually left, in time finding himself on Wearside, performing one of his famous survival routines. We cast our net as far as Turkey, bringing in an old Croatian face who not only provided success at his first knocking, but seems to have focused on bringing in, and developing youth.
Reece Oxford of course is the first name that springs to mind. His impressive display against Arsenal in August set the standard, and 90 minutes later we’d chalked up our first win of the season. Eyebrows were originally raised at the idea of playing an untested 16-year-old, but he admirably handled the threat of Mesut Ozil and broke up play with maturity beyond his years. Plaudits were tossed around for him after the game and well-deserved.
Add to him the younger players we sent out on loan. Reece Burke went on loan to Bradford City, playing the majority of the season for them, netting twice from defence. Impressive a feat as that is, for a youngster to go in and immediately play so often, even more incredible is his haul of trophies from the Bradford end of season awards, where Burke picked up seven, including Player Of The Season as voted for by both supporters and sponsors.
With Josh Cullen also plying his trade at Bradford, and Diego Poyet still gaining experience at various Championship sides, the learning curve they are climbing is very much invaluable.
Furthermore, investment is being made into signing young, up-and-coming players to benefit our future. Toni Martinez from Valencia has come in after the club tracked him for a while, seeing him as one definitely for the future.
Portuguese youngster Domingo Quina has come in from Chelsea, a talent that Academy coach Terry Westley ha already likened to Manuel Lanzini. As someone who is working alongside both players, this is nothing but encouraging news.
Martin Samuelsen, who signed last year from Manchester City, has already earned rave reviews from his loan performances at Peterborough, even getting called up to the Norway senior squad at just 19-years-old. Once he gets the chance, which given the European adventure on the horizon could be this season, I’m sure he’ll grab it with both hands.
Serbian striker Luka Belic has also come in, looking to emulate the success of those who have come before him.
So, whilst we look forward to next season with anticipation, wondering who our next big signing will be and what colour our third kit will turn out once unveiled, it’s worth maybe looking even further into the future and just wondering if the current crop of youngsters could be part of a famous West Ham story.