Phillips: West Ham Academy can be proud of recent achievements
West Ham United U18s coach Mark Phillips says the Academy of Football can take pride in their recent achievements.
Phillips, who forms a two-man management team with Hammers legend Steve Potts, have worked closely on the development of teenager Declan Rice, who has made 22 first-team appearances since making his debut last May, as well as fellow youngsters Reece Oxford and Nathan Holland, who have both featured at senior level this term.
Working under the guidance of Academy Director Terry Westley, the coaching duo have also provided a host of scholars for the U23s, including Ben Johnson, Alfie Lewis and 15-year-old Dan Chesters, who debuted for Westley’s side in their own 1-0 Premier League 2 win at Liverpool on Saturday.
If we are getting scholars and even schoolboy players into the U23s, then that can only be a good thing
“While our results have not been that good this season, and people point out that ‘You’re down the bottom of the league’, the Academy’s main priority is the long-term goal of getting players into the first-team squad, which we have done again this season,” said Phillips.
“If we are getting scholars and even schoolboy players into the U23s, then that can only be a good thing, because it means Terry believes they are good enough to play at that level.
“It only seems like yesterday that Steve and myself had Declan as our U18s captain and centre-back, but now he’s gone onto the first team and is showing why we all had so much belief in him as a schoolboy.
“Dan Chesters did really well in two behind-closed-doors we played last week and Terry wanted to give him a chance in the U23s. He played for the last ten minutes or so at Liverpool and helped the team close out a really good win.”
Phillips says the U18s themselves are growing in confidence after making it back-to-back wins by beating Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
The Hammers’ scholars followed up a 2-1 home victory over Leicester City by overcoming the Seagulls at Little Heath, with goals from Odysseas Spyrides, Yiannis Constantinou – his first at U18 level – and Bernardo Rosa securing a 3-1 success.
“It was a good team performance,” Phillips confirmed. “After a goalless first half, Odysseas put us ahead six minutes after the break.
“Brighton equalised a few minutes later through their Icelandic striker Stefan Ljubicic but, to our credit, the boys regrouped and got themselves back in control and then managed the game really well after Yiannis and Bernardo had scored.
“With the U23s playing up at Liverpool on the same day, we were without Alfie Lewis, Ben Johnson and Dan Chesters, so we were also delighted that two of our U15s, goalkeeper Serine Sanneh and midfielder Amadou Diallo, played the full 90 minutes and did really well.
“We are away to Norwich City, who are bottom of the table, on Saturday and we go to Norfolk with confidence we can make it three league wins in a row.”
West Ham United U18s: Sanneh, Hannam, Wells, Alese, Ashby, Dalipi, Barrett, Diallo, Rosa, Watson, Spyrides (Constantinou 67)
Subs not used: Jinadu (GK), Okotcha, Appiah-Forson, Parkes