West Ham – the academy of football. Taste that!
Even though I’ve always thought of that statement as more than a bit arrogant the fact that we have produced a string of talent has made it possible for us to play against the best teams in English football for quite a few seasons.
We have had the opportunity to bring on recruits fresh from, or in some cases still in, our famous academy. We’ve seen them “get their chance” a lot the last season or two, and by the famous Duckers-epos “The Football Project” this necessity was transformed into a virtue and a cornerstone.
Zola was lured here partly by his interest in forming and honing young players and there is little that gets the blood of a supporter flowing like a lad from the academy taking his first bow at Upton Park, not to mention scoring on his home debut. And I still get the shivers when I think of the Noble penalty against Liverpool a few seasons ago, a shiver that would not have been even close to the same if yet another hired gun would have put it away. Some boys get away with badge kissing!
But would it be possible to point out a few problems with this talented youngster thing without being branded as anti-academic?
It takes a great deal of coaching guts to resist the urge to field a player before they are ready (or the situation is right) when there is a lack of cover in a position.
“If they are good enough they are old enough” is often used as a way to rectify this in “throw them in at the deep end” situations.
However, there is a huge difference between being good enough to be the new boy in an otherwise stable lineup and good enough to be thrown into an ever changing squad like ours this season where the youngsters cannot rely on their surrounding teammates to tell, show or even know, what should be done.
The lack of composure and cool shown by our side of late may have several reasons. Lack of the right on/off the pitch leadership or the lack of, or trust in, a game plan are all possible reasons, but it is certainly not helped by the number of youngsters and the relatively in-experience in our side, in crucial positions at that!These poor lads have also been used as reasons and explanations for not getting proper replacements for lost players. To gain the most of the talents of Sears, Collison, Nouble, Stanislas, Tomkins, Hines, N’Gala etc and to help them fulfill their potential these young lads need to be schooled, not only technically and tactically but also into the premiership game.
It’s not only if a player is good enough that is the question, it is also if the team and the leaders are good enough to give him what he needs to succeed.