'That's what you dream of'

As a first senior outing at the Boleyn Ground goes, 17-year-old Reece Burke could hardly have dreamt of better, as he bagged a dramatic late winner in Saturday's 3-2 Marathonbet Cup triumph.

Having started and finished West Ham United's 2-0 reverse against Malaga in Germany, the teenage centre-half joined the fray with quarter-of-an-hour to go in this one and visiting UC Sampdoria 2-1 to the good. 

Ample time to make a spectacular impression, as it proved. Once Mohamed Diame's leveller had set up a grandstand finish, Burke started and finished a flowing move in the final minute to cap an outstanding pre-season for the young man.

Reflecting on his extraordinary afternoon, the teenager confirmed: "I

t doesn't get much better than that. As a young kid that's what you dream of, to score my first goal for the first team is really good and that's something that's going to help me, I feel, with my confidence to carry on." 

Reece Burke v UC Sampdoria

Burke nets the winner in his first senior outing at the Boleyn Ground

Though the goal was ultimately a simple tap-in from six yards, what preceded it was anything but.

"I intercepted the pass and Pottsy [Dan Potts] said they might have been in. But I followed it out, played in Mo Diame and thought I'd just carry on running," he explained.

"I got myself in the box. El [Elliot Lee] had the ball, crossed it and I was there for the finish. I just didn't want to miss. I was literally right there and I just wanted to make sure that I scored really. I didn't want to miss.

"It was an unbelievable feeling, I didn't know what to do, to celebrate or to run. I don't score many to be fair, but that's one of my targets, to score more goals as a centre-back."

All in all, Burke can look back on a fantastic pre-season and one that he expects will serve him very well in the coming weeks and months.   

"That was my first time playing for the first team at the Boleyn Ground, it was a great experience for me to come on and obviously to score is great.

"I'm enjoying pre-season very much. Germany was a great experience for me, playing a full 90 out there as well. Unfortunately we lost 2-0 [against Malaga] but that's part of my development. It's an honour to play with top players who have played against some of the best players in the world." 

Ironically, Burke's first taste of senior football ended in a demoralising 5-0 FA Cup reverse at Nottingham Forest back in January. But far from dwelling on any negatives, Burke has gone from strength to strength ever since and reckons it marked a turning point in his young career.

He added: "Forest was an eye opener for me, I didn't know what it was really like. But from there it's just really helped me.

"I came on and conceded quite a few goals. As a centre-half people are going to look at the defence, so I was sort of picked out. It was hard after the game, but you still get confidence from it and you can either go a good way or a bad way and for me it's been good.

"Sometimes you need to fail to succeed and I think that's one of the highlights of my career so far."

Delighted with his recent progress, the 17-year-old is now hoping to focus on establishing himself in Nick Haycock's U21 side and, perhaps, beyond.  

"I believe I'm doing quite well, I've sat down with the coaches and spoken about what I need to improve on and I'm just going to keep improving from there.

"My target for this season was to be a regular for the 21s, that was original target. Hopefully I can do that and if I can we'll go from there and maybe get in the squad for the first team."