The GoatyGav Column
I sat in the stands at Adams park to watch Wycombe Wanderers host Oxford United on Saturday afternoon. Frankly I had completely forgotten that Marcus Browne had joined the U’s until the 63rd minute when he replaced James Henry.
As you’d expect from two teams playing in the lower reaches of the 3rd tier of English football the game was a physically challenging affair. When he came on Marcus made a positive impact on the game. There is no doubt that he has the technical ability to cut it at alongside experienced ‘grown men’ of League 1 but, as we so often hear from pundits and journalists, the boys who come through academies must prove that they have the attributes to cope with the physical demands of professional football.
I’m glad to report that Marcus backed up what we know about his skill levels with a robust performance to match. Despite Oxford creating the better chances before his arrival the game was starting to swing in favour of Wycombe. With the likes of Adebayo ‘the beast’ Akinfenwa, , officially the strongest player in world football at the end of season 2016/17 earning him a, surprising, spot on FIFA 18’s opening animated sequence, to contend with Marcus did not look like a boy amongst men. His progress appears to be continuing apace at the early stages of this season despite Oxford struggling near the foot of the table.
The question does, however, remain. What is the best way to introduce youth academy players to ‘grown up’ football? I have to admit that I was a big fan of the idea of loaning players out to foreign clubs to achieve that introduction. The example of an Oxford of a different kind, the Reece variety to be exact, was one to consider last season. The loan of the youngster to Borussia Mönchengladbach last term was, in principle, a great idea. The Bundesliga is a strong league, equal to any in physicality, and an ideal place to develop as a footballer. I know that, in Reece’s case, it didn’t go as well as we had hoped but I don’t think that the idea was a bad one and was certainly not viewed as a complete failure. Reece made a similar, initial, impact to one of his contemporaries, Declan Rice, when he made his debut. In the games that followed, however, it didn’t go as well for Reece as it did for Declan who is now establishing himself as a talented and versatile CB/CDM who is also a very capable defensive full back when called upon. Reece is now playing with the PL2 team – whose latest outing you can view on the official site. Click on the following link to view their latest outing at Brighton & Hove Albion https://tinyurl.com/y96ujrtj .
The midfield positions, at West Ham, are becoming hotly contested. It’s great to have competition for places at a club IMO. That said we’ve got two excellent midfielders coming through the ranks. The aforementioned Marcus Browne is joined by the exciting attacking midfielder Nathan Holland. Often favouring a wide berth in a 4 or 5 man midfield Nathan is the kind of player you love to watch. The young Mancunian, who joined us from Everton, has revelled in taking defenders on in the PL2 team and is listed in the first team squad this season. Although Nathan has a narrow chance of making it through to play in the first team this season let’s not forget – this is West Ham, injuries to key players are always just around the corner. Apart from the possibility of playing in cup competitions the way may open up for the youngster through others paying visits to the physio room. In Holland’s case I think it’s worthwhile him staying with the club rather than being loaned out. The Checkatrade Trophy allows the U21/23 players the opportunity to play against experienced professionals from lower leagues which I believe to be a good thing. You never know – Marcus and Nathan may well line up against each other if our youth side progress alongside Oxford United in the competition.
I can’t avoid a mention of the terrific game on Sunday. What a massive difference it was to watch the lads against Everton compared to the previous Premier League games. Better organised and balanced, with a work ethic we’d not previously witnessed this campaign, it was a real joy to watch and well worth the £7.99 I paid for the 24 hour NowTV pass. Declan and Pedro were both worthy of 9/10 from me with Diop, Yarma and Arnie at 8/10. Nobes was great too – providing some proof of my, and other’s, theories that he’s better in centre and attacking midfield than he is in a holding role. Zabba looked solid, if not lacking pace, Anderson showed some of the class I genuinely believe he will become known for at West Ham while Artur and Balbuena did well too. A great team effort that was topped off by a fine showing from Fab who is justifying his place in the starting line up at the moment.
Can’t wait for the Chelski game next Sunday. Depending on the time my lad’s team’s U14’s game is scheduled for that morning I may have to play my lone ‘postponement’ card to make it to the London Stadium in time. The West London team will be a big challenge. I just hope we see the same work-rates and effort that we saw Sunday afternoon.
COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!