Tears or fears for the boys of '22

Well, who would have guessed it? Carlton Cole is just a big softie at heart. But maybe he summed it up for us all after our boys brigade's European heroics.

There he was on BT with Joe Cole, admitting he almost burst into tears with joy and pride after the memorable 3-0 Europa Conference victory in Bucharest, against the latest re-incarnation of the famed Steaua Bucharest.


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There's nothing we all like more than seeing kids from the Academy, who've been with us since they were at primary school, coming through the system to get their big chance in the big league. And that's what we got from David Moyes' selection in a game that was a dead rubber, but still one that will live in our history.

It was one of those occasions when it warmed your heart to see these lads do so well and Carlton summed it up by praising their parents and all the hard miles they have put in to give their sons their chance at the highest level.

Carlton's ambassadorial role at club involves coaching at the Academy and he sees first-hand the effort these boys put in and the constant involvement of their parents. It's a view that resonates with many, I'm sure.

Our offspring, if they are fortunate have parents who have driven them the length and breadth of the country for matches and coaching sessions in every sport imaginable. Carlton has seen that level of dedication so you can see why he was admitting to almost crying!

But he also knows this is just the beginning. Don't expect to see any of these lads in the Premier League any time soon. Sunday's game with Crystal Palace will see the experienced old guard on show and any clamour to see these boys thrust into the environment is misplaced.

But seeing 16 year-old Ollie Scarles play so well at left wing back and then do an emotional TV interview afterwards was enough to bring tears to the eyes of us all. Just for a change football throws up something that is heartwarming and without the cynicism that envelopes football at every professional level.

England Under 17 international Scarles is a Croydon boy, has had a spell with Chelsea after initially being with us as an eight year-old. But he needs time and no pressure.


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He has pace, can cross the ball on the run superbly and has plenty of confidence. It's up to our youth coaches to do their job now because we need an eventual replacement for Aaron Creswell, out of contract next summer.

Divin Mubama, the only other kid to start, has that touch of Jermain Defoe about him. He's not big for a striker but quick and with an eye for goal.

The Canning Town lad 'scored' a fine header, only for it to be ruled an own goal. Very harsh, but these days officialdom looks at whether the original shot was on target before it deflected and sadly Mubama's was not. But he'll still rightly bask in the glory of the strike.

The rest of the youngsters all came on as substitutes: Kaelan Casey, Harrison Ashby, Keenan Forson, Kamarai Swyer and Freddie Potts. Nobody let us down. All I would say is don't expect too much, give them time. This is not a 'Boys of 92' moment from Manchester United's history.

We have been this way before. Last term Moyes did something similar for the dead rubber against Dynamo Zagreb at the London Stadium, a 1-0 defeat. Looking back at the kids that played that night, none have made a big breakthrough.

Ji Alese has been sold to Sunderland, Emmanuel Longelo is at Birmingham on loan - and doing well by all accounts - and Sonny Perkins has opted for Leeds and does not seem to be getting much joy there. Potts and Ashby both played that night too.

And of course there is that horrible Nottingham Forest cup tie in 2014 when Sam Allardyce threw in a bunch of unprepared boys seemingly to show David Sullivan that we didn't have the necessary squad depth for league and cup football.


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It was cruel and some young careers were ruined in the process. None of those boys ever made any further impact at West Ham.

All I can say is, give these boys of '22 a chance, it's a tough road they are on and we should not expect too much too soon. But it was a joy to watch, a night to remember and the conclusion of six wins from six in our qualifying group.

But for West Ham to be able to leave 14 first team stars at home and still win in a hostile atmosphere says a lot for how far the club has come. In the past we have been unable to sustain a European campaign and use fringe players and youngsters to get us through, like the big clubs always seem able to do.

It never happened under Slaven Bilic, but Moyes is now benefiting from what seems a vastly improved Academy supply line. The performance of the club at Under 21 and youth level these past couple of seasons underlines this.

So from our bright youngsters with eyes on the future to a blast from the past after a sad piece of news this week, the passing of FA Cup legend Ronnie Radford, scorer of that amazing goal for Hereford back in 1972.

Many of our younger fans may not realise the interesting connection between West Ham and Hereford all those years ago. When Radford's 30-yarder and Ricky George's winner against Newcastle cast the then Southern League club as national heroes in the third round that season, it was West Ham who were drawn against them next.

Four days after their Newcastle victory, we faced Hereford in a night game at Edgar Street and it was a miracle we got away with a 0-0 draw.


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I can recall, in the days of football specials, getting onto what was little more than a cattle truck to take our fans down to the west country. A filthy train, torn seats, broken toilets, it was a long journey and an even longer crawl back.

That Hereford side had Radford, George - who later played for Barnet - and player-manager Colin Addison, who is now 82 and went on to manage West Brom and Derby among many others.

We had a side including Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds, Geoff Hurst, Frank Lampard and Trevor Brooking and it was a miracle we survived in front of a 15,000 sell-out crowd.

Radford played that night and in the famous replay at Upton Park that West Ham won 3-1 with a Hurst hat-trick. It was an afternoon game because of the three-day week; 42,000 packed into the ground.

Hereford were excellent, and when Billy Meadows - who died at 80 a couple of years ago - scored a late consolation goal, the whole stadium rose to them.

That was the game from which the famous picture of our fans on the roof of the flats behind the North Bank originated. Hereford were soon elected to the Football League, and the rest is history.

Their midfield general Dudley Tyler joined us for £25,000 that summer and had a short spell at Upton Park before moving on, never quite making the grade. But Radford, Hereford and West Ham all played their part in FA Cup folklore.

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