Filed: Monday, 30th April 2012
By: Willis Jamieson
Success in youth football can be measured in different ways.
It can be measured in matches won, in players that get promoted to the first team, the progression of the scholars or even just in the way that they play the game. It is fair to say that whichever of those ways you judge the West Ham Academy teams this season, it can be called successful.
Including a pre-season that counted being runners up on goal difference to the Estonia national side in the Tallinn Cup as one of their achievements, The under 18 side won an impressive 23 games and drew five out of a possible 40.
The competitive season began with an eight-game unbeaten run including a 4-1 opening day victory against Sheffield United. Elliot Lee, son of former player Rob Lee carried on from his seven goals in pre-season by scoring an impressive hat-trick. After finishing last season with a final day hat-trick against Chelsea, Lee was continuing his fine form. In the next game he would complete his hat-trick of hat-tricks by scoring all three goals in a five-goal thriller away at Sunderland.
Perhaps the most enjoyable performance from the young Hammers came in their next game, an away trip to London rivals Tottenham. The style of the 4-0 victory was what impressed most with a solid defensive display from Jake Larkins in goal as well as Jake Young, Kenzer Lee, Leo Chambers and the soon to break into the first team Dan Potts all working hard for the clean sheet.
At the other end, late replacement Kieran Sadlier gave the Hammers a half time lead and two goals from Blair Turgott and one more from Jack Powell in the second half provided the travelling fans with a memorable victory.
Other impressive wins included beating the Academy teams of Chelsea and Arsenal as well as an enjoyable cup run that saw a great 3-2 away victory at Wolves and a 4-1 victory against Brighton in front of a 1,500+ crowd at The Boleyn.
The Cup run came to a heart-breaking end at Staines against a strong Chelsea side. A good crowd travelled to support the lads who although struggling in the first half fought back to be leading 3-2 with just seconds to go, sadly deep into injury time Chelsea scrambled an equaliser and went on to win 5-4 on penalties.
With the game being shown live on TV it was a great opportunity for the fans to see the quality that we have coming through, as well as their excellent team spirit.
Another way to measure success is by the progress of the players through the ranks and once again this season can be counted as a positive one. Three Academy players made their first team debuts in Rob Hall, Dan Potts and Callum McNaughton - whilst Olly Lee and George Moncur made the bench on a couple of occasions.
Along with Dan Potts and Rob Hall, others have also enjoyed representing their country at youth level. Blair Turgott, Mathias Fanimo, Leo Chambers and Josh Cullen have all represented England and Kieran Sadlier has been capped by Ireland.
So whether you judge success at Academy level by games won, style of play or if, like Academy director Tony Carr, you judge it by progression and development of players, then the Academy at West Ham continues to move forward with many of the scholars having bright futures ahead of them.
Jake Larkins (14 appearances): Started season as first choice and performed really well, suffered a groin strain that kept him out of last part of the season.
Dave Wooton (8 appearances): Took over from Larkins and did very well. Good performance in the Chelsea cup match keeping us in it a number of times.
Sam Baxter (6 appearances): A first year scholar who, at the start of the season was third in line so spent time on loan. His 6’4” frame saw him play a number of times for the Development Squad and six more for the under 18s. Expect to see him a lot more next season.
Leo Chambers (24 appearances): An excellent season at centre back for Leo that at just 16, saw him play regularly for the under 18s - but also a number of times for England, including captaining and scoring as the England under 17s won the Algarve Cup.
Kenzer Lee (26 appearances; 1 goal): Formed a good partnership with Chambers and has helped keep the under 18’s solid at the back.
Dan Potts (15 appearances; 2 goals): Started off as captain of the under 18s and played well at left back and centre back. His performances earned him a well-deserved call-up to the first team and he has been in and around the match day squad ever since. He impressed on his debut and also enjoyed an international call up.
Frazer Shaw (26 appearances; 1 goal): A left back who enjoys supporting the attack, he had a good season as part of a strong back four.
Josh Siafa (11 appearances): A centre back and first year scholar, Josh has had limited chances but played a bit more towards the end of the season when more first years were brought into team with a view to next season.
Jake Young (27 appearances; 1 goal): Jake formed a good relationship at right back with the rest of the back four, although he has now left the club and is currently having trials with Colchester United. Tony Carr recently stated that Luke is a credit to himself and his family and along with us, wishes him well in the future.
Dominic Vose (18 appearances; 2 goals): A mixed season for the attacking midfielder who has put problems in his personal life behind him. He has a lot of quality and will hope to play a lot more next season for the Development Squad and push for a first team debut. Vose scored four in 14 appearances for the Development Squad; his most memorable game was coming on as a substitute in the Cup tie with Chelsea where he turned the game in our favour. Sadly it was his poor penalty miss that ultimately lost it.
Blair Turgott (30 appearances; 10 goals): An excellent season for Blair that has seen him progress well. He has enjoyed playing for both the Development Squad and under 18s scoring a total of 13 goals. Blair has captained the under 18s a number of times and having already signed a professional contract, the future looks bright.
Kieran Sadlier (25 appearances; 10 goals): A first year scholar with great technical ability and an excellent eye for goal. Kieran has frequently played on the left but looks most dangerous behind the striker.
Pelly Ruddock (11 appearances): A strong holding midfielder who hasn’t been able to enjoy a run of games, but has looked good whenever he has appeared.
Jack Powell (26 appearances; 4 goals): Really enjoyable to watch as he is very good on the ball and has great vision and passing ability.
Taylor Miles (27 appearances; 2 goals): A perfect partner for the more technically gifted Powell, Miles always works hard and is excellent in breaking up play and simply distribution. He also has great shooting ability as his wonder goal in the Chelsea Cup tie proved.
Lamar Hurley (21 appearances; 1 goal): A holding midfielder who enjoyed a decent start to the season, although Lamar has since been released by the club.
Mathias Fanimo (26 appearances; 6 goals): A tricky, skillful winger who has been called up to the Development Squad on 12 occasions. With his pace and the way he runs at defenders he has looked good on most occasions he has featured.
Kieran Bywater (7 appearances): Kieran has progressed from the under 16s to play a few times towards the end of the season. Kieran will be looking forward to making the central midfield position his own next season.
Elliot Lee (29 appearances; 20 goals): Being the main striker for most of the season it is no surprise that Lee ended the season as top scorer. Seven goals in pre-season was followed by hat-tricks in his first two games of the season. As the season has progressed he has found it harder, but has a great eye for goal and doesn’t stop working.
Nana Yiadom (6 appearances; 1 goal): Nana only started one game and made five substitute appearances. He often played for the under 16s before joining the under 18s in the second half of the campaign. Nana has enjoyed a good season and has scored a number of times for the under 16 and fully deserves his full time scholarship.
Dylan Tombides: A special mention for Dylan as although he has been unable to play a part this season due to fighting cancer, he has progressed really well - so much so that in the last couple of weeks he has returned to training with the rest of the squad. We wish him well as he continues his recovery and lookforward to seeing him play again soon.
With 11 players from the U16’s being given fulltime scholarships to join up with this year’s first year scholars, the Academy system continues to move forward. We have a good squad to look forward to further success next year.
* For more news and updates from the Academy, follow Willis on Twitter @WillisJamieson.
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.
06:53AM 1st May 2012
''Nice and important read. It's hard to keep up with the youth's development (if you don't live nearby) so happy to see that someone has.''
01:45AM 1st May 2012
''Great news all round, especially to Dylan!''
by Richard Neal
07:53PM 30th Apr 2012
''Willis: thanks again for another well-written article - very impressive, especially for an 11-year-old! It's great to get a round-up of players many of us have not had the chance to see. Well done mate, and keep up the good work.''
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