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Gotta make it

Filed: Monday, 26th March 2012
By: Willis Jamieson

KUMB.com is delighted to welcome Willis Jamieson - who at just 11 years of age is without doubt the youngest member to join our contributory team - to the KUMB family. For Willis' first article, he set off to Little Heath in order to interview one of Tony Carr's rising stars...

West Ham United has been known as the Academy of Football for nearly 50 years. It has produced many talented footballers who have gone on to enjoy successful careers at both club and international level.

World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters all started their careers at West Ham and since then, through the last five decades, the Academy has continued to produce many more.

This season we have already seen first team debuts for Dan Potts and Rob Hall. Trying to add his name to an impressive list is Blair Turgott who, at just 17 years of age, has already signed a professional contract with the club.

I caught up with Blair recently to find out a bit more on one of our most promising youth prospects - and get his thoughts on the Academy...

WJ: Tell us a bit about yourself before joining The Academy?

BT: My Dad (Bob) runs a football team in South London where I grew up and at about six years old, myself and some lads got together and played for him. We got quite good and so entered a league, then when I was nine I got a trial at West Ham.

WJ: Were any other clubs interested in you at that time?

BT: Yes, most of the other London clubs were interested in me, Charlton and other South London clubs wanted me and I was close to signing for Arsenal.

WJ: How did it feel having big clubs interested in you and why did you choose West Ham?

BT: It was brilliant, but especially having West Ham interested because they are known for their Academy. When I heard they wanted me I knew thatís where I wanted to be. My brother had been here a few years ago so I knew it was a good place to be.

WJ: Did you know the scout was watching you? How does that work?

BT: No not really, a couple of times a scout would come up to my dad or the manager after a game and give him his business card and say Iím interested in this player, or that player. I remember once there was a big cup final game between us and our closest rivals and we knew that a lot of clubs would have been watching, so although I was quite nervous when youíre so young you just concentrate on enjoying the football. From that team about six or seven players went on to sign for league clubs, including me and Lamar Hurley here at West Ham.

WJ: Describe an average day at the Academy?

BT: We come here to Little Heath in the morning and have certain jobs that have to be done, only once the jobs are done do we start training. After morning training we come back in and change before heading over to Chadwell Heath to have lunch and in the afternoon either do another training session or a gym session.

WJ: Do you get to mix with the first team and manager at all?

BT: Yes, quite a lot actually. On a Friday we have a 11 v 11 game with the first team starting 11 for the next match against the under 18s. We are asked to watch videos of the opposition and then line up and play as we expect them to. So for instance, when we played Leeds I was asked to play the role [Robert] Snodgrass would play, hopefully it gives the first [team] an idea on what to expect and we get to learn from the first team - plus it means Mr Allardyce gets a good look at us too.

WJ: Iíve seen you play right midfield, left midfield and striker; where do you think is your best position?

BT: Probably right midfield, but I also like to play the number 10 free role just off the striker where youíre not too restricted and can get involved with play more.

WJ: Who is the best player you have played against?

BT: Really hard question because there is a lot of talent around at youth level. When I was 15 I was playing for the under 16s and came up against Josh McEachran; he was really good.

WJ: You made your England debut in 2009 against Northern Ireland; explain how that felt?

BT: Ah it was just amazing! There was a camp before where we did light training and got the squad together. The night before we all sat down and there was a Powerpoint presentation of who is in the team and how and where we are going to play. When I found out I was playing I was just buzzing, had butterflies the lot. Pulling on the England shirt, walking out [down] the tunnel and singing along with the National Anthem was one of the best experiences ever. Sadly Iím too old for the under 17s for the Euros this year but I aim to push into the under 19s squad for next year.

WJ: How would you like to see your career progress?

BT: I just want to keep playing football, keep doing well and hopefully break into the West Ham first team. When I first started out I just wanted to do the best I could, now when Iím around a big club and big players I want to fulfil my potential - and of course, the dream is to play in the Premier League.

WJ: Do you think you are good enough for the first team now?

BT: I still need to strengthen up my frame, playing against men I know I need to work on getting a bit stronger. Technically I might be in with a shout but I just need to work hard and be patient and whether Iím in youths, reserves or the first team. Just work hard and be the best I can.

WJ: Lots of the youths seem to go out on loan, is that something youíd be happy doing?

BT: Itís something I would consider, of course. I need to concentrate on doing well for the development squad next year and then if clubs see me and want to take me on load Iíd consider it then. Getting first team experience is needed, itís all very well doing good with the reserves but that three oíclock kick-off in front of lots of fans is different. Going out on loan can give you that experience.

WJ: What other players should we be looking out for from the Academy?

BT: As a group we have some very good players, it would be unfair to mention just one or two as there are quite a few who have a good future. Weíve already seen Rob Hall and Dan Potts get their debuts this year but I really think that in the next year we could see a few more.

WJ: Is there more or less of a chance of that happening should we get promoted?

BT: Itís hard because [if and] when we get in the Premier League the aim will be to stay there so a manager could be tempted to go and buy experienced players. But if as a reserve player youíre doing well in the Development Squad or out on loan then there is no reason you wouldnít be in with a shout.

WJ: @blairturgott is your Twitter name, you seem to enjoy it on there; why should people follow you?

BT: Ha yeah I enjoy it, I like the banter. I speak my mind and donít take myself too seriously. Itís good to be able to go somewhere and be able to speak your mind.

WJ: Thanks very much for taking the time to chat. When you get your first team debut maybe I can interview you again?

BT: Nice one little man, yeah Iíd like that. Thank you, itís been good.

I would like to thank Blair again for chatting to me in my first (hopefully of many) interview with the youth team. Blair will be starting the second year of his professional contract next year and will be moving on to the reserve team/development squad. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him progress into the first team.

You can keep up to date with him on Twitter @blairturgott or with the whole of the youth team by following me on Twitter @WillisJamieson or here on KUMB.com.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Adrian White
10:31AM 28th Mar 2012
''Congratulations on a great article young man, you've obviously done you background work. Nice to see our up and coming talent featured too. Very well done!''

by Rick Osborn
08:47AM 28th Mar 2012
''Excellent work, Willis, some good honest questioning which brought us a picture of life in the Academy and the hopes and experience of its members. More from this reporter, please Editors.''

by Richard Neal
06:27AM 27th Mar 2012
''Willis - great job, congratulations! Writing is never easy, and it's obvious you put a lot of hard work into putting this piece together, it's a great read. Keep up the good work mate, I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future.

One piece of advice for you... be super-nice to your editors and even nicer to your publishers!''

by Johnboy
10:46PM 26th Mar 2012
''Interesting read with good questions and well written up. Nice one mate! Looking forward to more.''

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