Academy & Under 18s

Where will the next homegrown star come from?

During recent seasons we have seen a lack of players break into the team from the youth set up. Many have questioned the reasons behind this. The academy was awarded level 1 status and of course still has the legend of Tony Carr working behind the scenes to attract and nurture the best talents although sadly and tragically no longer supported by the talent spotter extraordinaire Jimmy Hampson. So why is it that we haven’t really seen any youth player establish themselves in the squad in recent years? The last two squad players to establish themselves from our youth team are Tomkins and Collison, although the later only joined the youth team aged 17, when Cambridge United’s youth team were abolished due to their financial difficulties.

People have put it down to Big Sam’s reluctance to play young players, a feeling that was especially noticeable when Robert Hall was allowed to leave. During the previous season, when questioned, David Gold on his twitter account stated that Hall was the biggest talent we had at the club. So why did he leave? I was very reliably informed that after his loan spell at Birmingham, Robert had developed an overly confident approach to his football and had insisted on a significantly high wage package for a player who had figured once in the premier league for us and had made demands for promises of first team involvement. It was felt he had the wrong attitude to make it at our level and that it was best that he did leave.

It would be fair to say that he hasn’t exactly started his Bolton career all guns blazing. In fact when you look at the youth players who have all left under Sam’s management: Sears, Hines, Stanislas, and Stech, for example, none of them have gone on to great things, or even semi good things! I believe if they are good enough then Sam will play them as has been proven by Ravel Morrison’s introduction to the side this year.

Questions have been asked whether there is any top English talent out there. You only have to look at the last England squad and see how few have come directly from the big clubs youth academies, most have been bought from other much smaller clubs. Some examples are Joe Hart-Shrewsbury Town, Chris Smalling-Maidstone United, Phil Jagielka-Sheffield United, Leighton Baines-Wigan, Kyle Walker-Sheffield United, and Ashley Young-Watford. So perhaps English talent really isn’t out there?

There have been some players from our academy who have featured in the past. George Moncur was one of the most highly rated players a year or so ago and who is very much in the mode of his father, although he hasn’t featured as much as he would have liked. Seb Lletget is another skillful midfielder, from the USA, who impressed massively in the Colchester pre-season game but unfortunately didn’t quite have the same impact in the other games, although someone who I do believe will make it in the game soon. We have seen Dan Potts who has impressed in a few games now and perhaps in the long term will establish himself as the clubs first choice left back. Leo Chambers featured against Cheltenham and had it not been for the outstanding display of Ravel Morrison I think more would have been said about his solid debut. Leo is a centre back who has been converted to a right back (Glen Johnson did similar) who has pace and an excellent work rate who we may see again in the next round.

I do think that a few of these players need another loan spell at a championship club, perhaps before they are ready because this has had many positive impacts in the past with players such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Glen Johnson, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Mark Noble have all benefited massively from such deals in the past.
Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I have a keen interest in the youth academy and that I have tweeted about players from it and written about them in my other column. I will now share some of the players who I believe are worth keeping an eye out for with the hope that some of them break into the first team in a few years.

Rio in loan action

One of the most highly rated players in our academy is Sam Howes, a player who the club are very keen to protect and keep admirers away from. Sam, who is a 15 year old goalkeeper, has already played for West Ham under 18s and England under 16s. Despite our great academy it is very rare that top goalkeepers come along but in this case the club believe they have a hugely talented keeper on the books. He has regularly played above his age group and is currently regularly doing so. He had originally been with Crystal Palace youth team and has currently been with us for the last 5 years. He has the potential to go all the way and of course, as a goalkeeper time is certainly on his side. I have met him a couple of times and he is a good lad who is dedicated and had a wise head on his shoulders. The only downside is that he is a Chelsea fan!

Another player with a chance is Joe Powell. Some people would have probably heard of Joe’s older brother Jack who was in our academy for 10 years, and was offered a pro deal but ended up being released at the end of last season. Jack had trials with Charlton, Scunthorpe and one other lower league club which didn’t amount to anything. His luck turned when Chelsea, who he had scored a great goal against for us, offered him a trial and he featured in a number of their academy games and preseason matches, Well Joe is even more highly rated than Jack. He has been a real star for the under 15s. It was said that Joe and Jack’s dad was unhappy with how Jack was treated and he was going to potentially move Joe to another club with the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa and Norwich said to be interested. A move to Chelsea was looking on the cards at one point, he hasn’t featured for us this year either, so I hope that we have been able to persuade him to stay.

Another youngster worth keeping an eye out for is Matt Carter – a 15-year-old central midfielder who has attracted attention from some of the big Premier League clubs. He has a very good engine and last season broke the SPARQ (Speed Power Agility Reaction Quickness) record for Premier League under 15s. As is shown by his success in the SPARQ tests he has a lot to offer physically and is also very technically gifted. Of course we will not see him this year but he is worth tracking in the under 18s games.

Kieran Bywater, no relation to Stephen, is another player who has played above his age for the development squad. He has captained many of the youth teams and is looking to make the break through to the first team within the next few years having turned 18 on Saturday 7th September 2013. Kieran who is from Cambridgeshire has a great attitude and will make it in the game. I hope he makes his mark with us, but we shall see.

Jordan Brown was recently signed from the Arsenal academy, as he felt he had more chance of making it at West Ham than at our North London rivals. He is an England under 16 forward who was regularly scoring for Arsenal and he has carried this on with us. He is someone I have personally seen play a couple of times before joining us and he really has an eye for a goal. Another England Under 16 international who we have in our ranks is Josh Cullen who is an exciting midfielder. Other who have a lot of potential are Lewis Page a defender, Kyle Knoyle a right back and Alex Pike.

On my twitter account this week I have been talking about Gabriel Fernando being on a six week trial with the club. He is a young South American midfielder who was at Manchester City’s academy before deciding his future lay elsewhere. Manchester United had been close to signing him but he has chosen to trial for us and by looking at his twitter profile he appears to be close mates with Ravel Morrison. In a 0-0 friendly against Spurs at Rush Green on Monday, Gabriel was said to have played ok and hit the bar with a chip. He arrives with good positive reviews from his time at City so hopefully if he signs he is another that could be pushing for the first team.

I hope that at least two of these players will go on to play for the first team at some point and maybe the academy will have a resurgence again. No pressure then!


Jeremy Nicholas Resigns as Match Day Announcer

From Jeremy Nicholas’s website

With great sadness, I have resigned as the stadium announcer at West Ham United after sixteen seasons on the microphone. The club asked me to take a 60% cut in my wages, to less than half of last season’s salary. It’s part of a review of all match days costs, to cut the club’s debt. While I would do anything to help the team I love, this just wouldn’t work for my family and me at this time.

My wife has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease and has been off-work and housebound for the past eighteen months. I have had to stop my freelance work as a BBC TV reporter, to stay at home and look after her. While it was a tough decision for me to resign from West Ham, I had to put my family first. Without the TV work my main sources of income are now as a conference host and an after-dinner speaker.

By committing myself to West Ham for the lower fee, I would have effectively been making a loss on being the announcer; because of the twenty days it ruled me out of speaking work. I understand the decision and realise that we, and I will always think of the club as ‘we’, must be struggling with the debt.

To put it into perspective, I have earned less in my sixteen seasons at West Ham, than many premier league footballers earn in a week. I will always be available to the club in the future if they need me, but I felt now was the time to step down. I’d like to thank all the lovely people I’ve worked with at the club over the past sixteen years. We are in safe hands with David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady who have saved our club from financial disaster. They have had to make some tough decisions. I just wish I hadn’t been one of them.

Most of all I’d like to thank the West Ham fans, who are second to none. If any West Ham fans have need of a corporate host, media trainer or after-dinner speaker, now is the time to ask, because the next few months are going to be tough.

Come on You Irons!_

A very sad day. Jeremy is one of the good guys. Those of you who have read his book MR MOON HAS LEFT THE STADIUM will know how devastated he will be at this turn of events.

UPDATE: Jeremy has written more about this on Kumb HERE . He reveals that his pay was to be cut from £10k a year to £4k.


Alpari Competition Winners: Donna, You Shall Go To The Everton Ball

Earlier this week I launched a little competition for two tickets, courtesy of those nice people at Alpari, for Everton on Saturday. They are Club 100 tickets in the Alpari suite with complimentary food and drink.

I asked: Which West Ham striker from the 1990s was known as the ‘Gypsy from Billericay’?

And in asked you to complete the following sentence: "I think I should win these tickets because……

Well, I can’t believe how many of you entered. In hindsight I wish I hadn’t asked you to complete that sentence because it proved impossible to judge a winner because there were so many which had brilliant reasons. So in the end I narrowed it down to 50 and put them in a hat and drew the winner. The answer to the question was of course, Steve Jones, although quite a few of you thought it was either Stewart Robson or Freddie Eastwood. Anyway, let’s get to the winner. Cue the drumroll…

The winner is Donna Heuerman. This was her entry…

I think I should win these tickets because i have been going to west ham every home for the past 3 years with my daughter. We never go into the ground as its too expensive but my daughter sells wristbands and badges in The Supporters Club to help her brother Jonjo with his fundraising for The Bobby Moore Fund. She knows its too expensive for the whole family to attend the games and never complains. It would be a nice treat for her and a thank you for the unselfish support she gives her brother. She has also just obtained 12 GCSEs grade A to B.

I’m going to ask Donna if she will write up her experience in a guest post. I feel awful that I couldn’t give the prize to all 50 as there were some absolutely brilliant entries – some very emotional some very funny. But in the end there

Thanks so much to Alpari for donating this prize. I hope we can repeat it again soon.

Here were some of the other entries which made the top 50 and went into the hat…

I think i should win these tickets because i still remember Steve Jones walking passed my house with a tesco carrier bag containing his boots and being picked up for Training by Julian Dicks in a Ford Escort…

I think I should win these tickets because I would take my dad, who attended almost every game home and away in the 1970s and introduced me to all things claret and blue in the early ‘90s. He has driven all over the country to take us to West Ham games and this would be a special treat, particularly given there will be even fewer opportunities now to do this at Upton Park.In addition, I have been a season ticket holder for ten years, since I left uni and could afford my own one, and have attended the vast majority of away games in the last couple of seasons. Watching Saturday’s game in style would be a nice contrast to getting absolutely drenched at Newcastle and Southampton in the last couple of weeks!

I think I should win these tickets because apart from the fact that I have never won anything in any competition I have ever entered, I saw Steve Jones play most of his 16 games for the Hammers and to be honest it would be nice to be rewarded for the pain and anguish I suffered!!

I think i should win these tickets because i have only brought my little boy to five west h games in his lifetime and he boasts the proud record of never seeing us lose. Four wins and two draws including 6-0 to brighton 3-1 chelsea. I think we could do with the luck.

I think I should win these tickets because my 5 year old son, Charlie, has never seen the Hammers in the Premier League before (just friendlies) and he’s the only one in his class who likes West Ham. I don’t want him to be converted by the other glory-hunting kids!

I think I should win these tickets because…… I would like to witness our A_ttacking L_ong P_unt in the A_ir style, R_esulting in I_ndifferent displays (ALPARI). Also, having travelled from Telford to the Boleyn as a season ticket for 20+ years, I had to give this up a few years back & would love to get back to see the boys in action once again. COYI.

And finally….


Talking Point

Leyton Orient's Judicial Review Explained

Today Barry Hearn and Leyton Orient will be returning to the High Court to seek a Judicial Review of the LLDC tender process for the Olympic stadium.

It is the second time that Orient have been involved in judicial review proceedings in relation to the Olympic Stadium. Their first legal challenge in 2011 initiated a series of events which ultimately led to the process being abandoned, and a new tender process commencing.

The new judicial review application is a claim relating to that new bid process.

In April this year Leyton Orient submitted a written application for a judicial review to the high court into the bid process but was rejected.

This time Barry hopes a oral hearing debating the issues surrounding the Stadium will allow the review to be granted

The Background to the challenge

All bidders were required to consent to ‘teaming’ when submitting their bids as the LLDC planned to team as many bidders as the event calendars would allow. The purpose of this requirement was to ensure maximum use of the stadium and return to the tax payer.

West Ham agreed to this teaming clause in their bid.

Leyton Orient claim that the LLDC’s decision has left West Ham as the only potential tenant and should of considered teaming with Leyton Orient.

What is a Judicial Review?

A Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.
In other words, judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

It is not concerned with the conclusions of that process and whether those were ‘right’, as long as the right procedures have been followed. The court will not substitute what it thinks is the ‘correct’ decision.

This may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, so long as it does so in a lawful way.

So the judge could make the LLDC review its decision process again but it cannot force the LLDC to make West Ham and Leyton Orient share the stadium.

I have no problem with Leyton Orient as a club and even less problem with the Leyton Orient fans who support their local team through thick and thin but I do have a problem with Barry Hearn. He is like a bad loser who refuses to give in gracefully. I also think it is insulting to suggest Orient fans will switch alliances to West Ham just because we move into the Olympic stadium.

My own personal view is this latest attempt for a judicial review will also be rejected as was the case with the written submission in April but I am sure that is not the last we have heard of Barry.

In what appears to be separate orchestrated campaign, a group of Leyton Orient fans have launched their own bid to prevent West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium.
The supporters make the claim the move breaks league rules blocking one club moving too close to another. They have contacted football clubs up and down the country in an attempt to get as many supporters as possible behind a campaign.

They have created an online petition which has been signed by over 500 people.

Their Group leader, Mat Roper, an Orient fan for 35 years, says: “We want to highlight how unfair this whole affair is”

I understand that Matt Roper is the brother of Daniel Roper who is the official Leyton Orient club mascot but I am sure that is just a coincidence.


Leyton Orient lose right to Judicial review. At the High Court, Mr Justice Lewis said the LLDC was entitled to make the decision which was not “irrational”.

LLDC statement:

“We welcome the ruling and are pleased that Mr Justice Lewis agrees that we ran a fair, open and transparent competition to appoint concessionaires for the stadium.We believe the agreement we have with West Ham United Football Club and UK Athletics will deliver a fantastic sporting and community legacy in east London and represents the best deal for the taxpayer.” Statement:

“West Ham United welcome the decision to not grant permission for a judicial review into the LLDC’s process that awarded the Club the opportunity to make the Olympic Stadium its home in 2016.Although the application for a judicial review would not have had any impact on West Ham United’s move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Club have always believed the process was robust, fair and transparent. The Club and other key stakeholders in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park can now focus fully on progressing their groundbreaking plans to create a stunning venue of which the whole country can be proud, alongside a long-lasting and tangible Olympic legacy with a real community club at its core.”

Leyton Orient Statement:

Karren Brady told the House of Lords only a few weeks ago that West Ham United had no objection to a ground share with Leyton Orient, but West Ham United’s barrister today claimed that to ground share would adversely affect the club because the Olympic Stadium is “part of the brand”.

Our real concern is the lack of transparency that has been shown throughout the process by a public body. It is deeply disappointing that both the Court and the LLDC have made decisions based only on financial considerations, when the purpose of the Stadium’s legacy was regeneration of the area with a community focus.

We believe that the LLDC exercised its discretion to favour West Ham United, no doubt under pressure from West Ham United to make them sole football tenants for the benefit of their “brand”. Delivering a new brand to West Ham United was not the intended purpose of the Olympic Stadium, and we now have to look to the House of Lords to find a common sense solution for Olympic legacy and local community.

Sky Sports News Report on the judgement

If you haven’t seen it yet here is Karren Brady and Barry Hearn in front of the House of Lords select committee in July. I am sure we can expect more pantomime from Barry at the high court today.

Barry Hearn at the Select Committee

Karren Brady at the select committee


Upton Park was Rocking

One of the tensest matches I have ever been to was the Quarter final of the FA Cup on the 8th March 1980 against Aston Villa at Upton Park. Unfortunately, the video clip attached below does not, and realistically can not, fully transmit the rising tension inside the ground to what became a white hot fever pitch. It was of course our Cup winning year despite still being a second division outfit. We had already beaten West Brom, Orient and Swansea in the previous rounds and the visit of Villa had everybody full of anticipation of the possibility of a Cup semi final or more?

Villa came to Upton Park in 5th place in the old first division and the Hammers were in 7th spot in the second division. The Hammers were without their inspirational skipper Billy Bonds and lined up as follows; Parkes, Stewart, Martin, Brush, Lampard, Pike, Brooking, Devonshire, Allen, Pearson and Cross. Billy would be back two months later with this same line up, albeit replacing Paul Brush, to win the Cup at Wembley against Arsenal.

The Hammers had a great mix of players in this fantastic team. They had bought Phil Parkes for what was then a World record fee paid for a goalkeeper. Alvin Martin, who had been awarded an apprenticeship six years earlier, a day after QPR had rejected him, was a mere 21 and was to go on to earn two testimonials with West Ham. Ray Stewart at 20, had joined earlier that season from Dundee United and was the most expensive teenage signing in British football at the time. Paul Allen was a mere seventeen and was to go on that year to break Howard Kendall’s record of being the youngest player ever to play in a Cup Final. Frank Lampard (snr), Stuart Pearson and David Cross added experience to the side and of course the best midfield pairing the club has ever seen (IMO), in Brooking and Devonshire, added the guile and silky touches to a balanced team.

The feeling around the ground prior to the game was that we needed to finish the job today. We had a chance at home but if we went to a replay we had little hope. This was a fact born out that with ten minutes to go in the game, Villa fans started singing songs on how easily they would beat us in Birmingham. A heavy shower ten minutes before the game made for a greasy surface but some great football. Early on Devonshire slid a ball into the six yard box for it only to be scrambled away when it seemed easier for Pike to nudge home. A short while later Devonshire himself brought a great save from Villa keeper Jimmy Rimmer as did Alvin Martin with a free header on goal, but basically the first half produced a lot of huff and puff. The final 25 minutes of the second half saw enormous pressure on the Villa goal and it was a constant bombardment from West Ham that eventually took the fans to a delirious frenzy. With each missed chance, goalkeeper save and frenetic clearance the atmosphere in the ground grew from passionate to electric. The countless goalmouth scrambles merely compounded the tension as the feeling mounted that this was not to be our day. Then the pressure valve was finally released in the last two minutes when Villa defender Ken McNaught inexplicably handled the ball in his own area to give away a penalty.

There have only been two penalties where I just had to close my eyes and this was the first. The other was the equalising penalty from the same man, Ray Stewart, a year later in the League Cup final at Wembley. Well, history tells that Ray belted home both those penalties and the one against Villa had many people at Upton Park crying with relief, including me! Both these penalties were in the final moments of matches with so much riding on them. We don’t see Upton Park “rocking” too many times nowadays, but it certainly rocked towards the end of this game. There is some conjecture to Ray Stewart’s penalty record. Unofficially he had 86 attempts and missed ten although he actually scored twice from the ensuing rebounds. I was not there for all of Ray’s penalties but I know I definitely missed two of them!

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