Having seen yet another academy player sign professional forms in the past few weeks, my mind started considering a plausible possibility within the hallowed corridors of Upton Park.
With such an influx of foreign players coming into the game and the majority not all that wonderful, isn’t it time clubs started to look at what they have within their own academies, the lower divisions and at grass roots?
Taking each one in turn, our academy, as we know, has produced such fine players as Moore, Peters, Hurst, Joe Cole, Ferdinand, Lampard, Defoe and Mark Noble and even though the production line appeared to stall for a while, we now have such talents as Reece Oxford, Reece Burke, Elliott Lee, Josh Cullen and others are starting to catch the eye.
It seems as though Slaven Bilic likes to blood youngsters and with Reece Oxford having made a glorious debut at Arsenal on the opening day this season, he and the others have a fine future ahead of them.
However, let’s hope it is for our benefit and not for the teams around us. After relegation in 2003 and the subsequent fire sale, other teams gained from our careful nurturing.
I believe West Ham have a chance to forge a new way of thinking that I would guess won’t interest the Manchester clubs or even the Liverpool’s of this world. Bring on the kids, get them training and playing with your Payet’s, Lanzini’s, Kouyate’s, etc. and let them learn from them.
Use them in the first team here and there to give them more and more of a tate of the Premier League, while almost serving an apprenticeship alongside those talented first teamer’s.
Eventually, we could have a side with more English players in it than foreign and it would encourage youngsters to join us because they can see that they stand more chance with West Ham of seeing a progression than at any other club. Those in the system would be buoyed by the fact that their team mates have been promoted to the first team and that would give them so much encouragement.
It’s my belief that the national team is flagging and nowhere near as good as past teams and individuals. Are there any world class players in the England team? Who would make a world XI? Rooney may get a mention for his achievements, but that would be all. The foreign invasion has hit the Premier League teams and the national team.
In 2002, after the World Cup, Germany went away and totally changed their structure with all of this in mind – and look at them now.
The pressure from the fans and the owners probably makeS this impossible across the Premier League. But a club like West Ham, with its fine traditions of bringing on “our own”, could make it happen and I think Bilic is the manager to be brave enough to try.
We all demand instant success nowadays, but patience will give its own reward.
West Ham are 13th in the all-time list of teams producing players for England. 39 Hammers have worn the three lions over the decades. You’d think it would be more, wouldn’t you?
Back in the 70s, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard Senior and Kevin Lock very nearly got their first appearances, which would have taken us over the 40 mark, but it didn’t happen. However, you can see the likes of Burke and Oxford in the first team one day, should their progression go according to plan.
With the lower leagues, Premier League teams are not willing to take the gamble and pay the ludicrous amounts of money wanted for players. Aston Villa took a chance on Rudy Gestede, but really unless these players gain promotion with their teams, they don’t get the chance and there a number of decent lower league players that, given the chance, could mature into top flight players.
I know I always hark back to days gone by, but where do you think the Kevin Keegan’s, Steve Coppell’s and even the likes of McAvennie (albeit a Scottish league team) came from? Yes, the lower leagues and yes, I know it was different then.
Grass roots. It’s about taking the chance and do clubs then have the time to bring that player on, when they could buy a ready-made player from the continent or Africa that could slot straight into the squad and play on Saturday. The Bromley striker, Moses Emmanuel, is raising eyebrows amongst league teams, but not the Premier League.
I guess there’s no easy answer, but teams like West Ham could take the lead. Then it would be for the nameless faces that stalk the corridors of power at the FA to issue guidelines that would encourage the kids and give our national team a pool of players from which to build a competent and successful team in the future. One that stays in the final part of a competition longer than it takes to make a coffee.
We’ve taken the lead in the past. In the 50s, we were the first team to wear lighter kits. In the 60s, we ate differently before games and worked the way the continentals did in training and we’ve always encouraged our academy players to come through.
We can take the lead again and show that young players have a chance in the claret and blue.