The GoatyGav Column

In life, and in football, change is the only constant. As much as any fan tries to view their football team as a solid, tangible and stable thing, that they know like the back of their hands, there’s no getting away from the fact that, in reality, it’s a living, breathing entity that is constantly developing and evolving. At West Ham we’re probably more used to the fact than fans of the majority of other clubs. Nowadays West Ham wouldn’t be West Ham without some news story emerging. The media love our club, and put so much focus on it, for that very reason and us fans are constantly in a state of flux, wondering what revelation will come to light next, keeping us on constant tenterhooks.

Notwithstanding this continual shifting of West Ham’s tectonic plates there’s been an overall improvement in the team management and playing staff over the last few years. Focusing more on the playing staff than the various gaffers that we’ve had recently the the squad has gone from strength to strength. Not that it ever happens but if everyone was fit and firing the current playing roster looks extremely strong. There’s some talk of Lanzini returning to a matchday squad for Friday’s game against Fulham. If it means any risk to his cruciate ligament recovery then I’d sooner he didn’t however the prospect of Manu lining up alongside Anderson and Arnie is a mouthwatering one.

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So player recruitment has gone up a notch but the good news doesn’t stop there. From the ranks of the Academy we’re starting to see home grown talent come through again. Declan Rice has to be one of the most exciting products of the Academy for many a season. Game in game out he’s consistently running matches from midfield. I can’t remember the last time Declan had a bad game such is his consistency. Alongside Fabianski you’d have to say that, if the season ended today, he’d be nailed on for Hammer Of The Year. Grady Diangana has also impressed. Not as far along his development curve as Declan is Grady has still ‘cut it’ in the games he’s played in the Premier League. With many others like Nathan Holland, Marcus Browne, Jahmal Hector-Ingram, Dan Kemp, Connor Coventry, Xande Silva, Tunji Akinola and, recently signed, Mesaque Dju queuing up to knock on the first team door we may well see others break through from the youth sides in the near future.

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Last night the aforementioned Portugal U19 International signing from Benfica made his home league debut in the West Ham U23 team against Liverpool U23s after a half match taster away to Arsenal U23 (half a match due to the game being abandoned at half time because of adverse weather conditions & not through substitution). Although Dju didn’t see masses of the ball he looked extremely threatening when he did gain possession. Gifted with considerable pace Dju looks like he’s going to be a great asset to West Ham. as early as the 6th minute Dju opened up the oppositon, with three red shirts unable to take the ball off him, before squaring smartly inside the box. Although he was substituted in the second half the Portuguese pace-man showed enough to suggest he’s going to do well.

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The game itself was a decent one to watch in the middle of the park. Sadly the quick, crisp interplay in midfield was rarely matched in the final third of the pitch where the Liverpool youngsters defended without any degree of discomfort. The promising play, most notably from Dan Kemp, for West Ham just lacked that cutting edge with the final ball. Others including Hector-Ingram and Kristijan Belic threatened but chances were few and far between with the final ball often over-hit from both central and wide positions. A great shame as the progression of the moves made decent viewing.

Between the sticks I got my first look at Ghanaian born Joseph Anang who was assured when claiming the ball. There wasn’t much he could have done about the Liverpool, and only, goal and apart from that you couldn’t really fault his performance. I’ll be interested to see how his career progresses and the effect that has on Nathan Trott. In defence Aji Alese made some silly, unnecessary challenges and was lucky to stay on the pitch but recovered to make a superb block on the line in the 83rd minute before getting in the opposition half and hitting a stinging drive just over the bar. Ones to watch from the Reds were captain Paul (who the LFCTV commentator kept referring to as Powell) Glatzel and 66th minute sub Yasser Larouci who both impressed with Glatzel bagging the winner when he tapped in from a ball that was knocked on to him from a pass from out wide on the counter attack.

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With more competition for places being added to, by those returning from injury, the squad is set to get stronger even before the Summer transfer window. There’s a sense of expectation that this Summer will bring further improvements, with various comings and goings, and, despite our poor fortune with injuries, Manuel Pellegrini’s project will get further personnel to improve the playing style that he’s trying to achieve even further.

With all this in mind it’s hard not to be optimistic for the future – albeit cautiously optimistic.