Tuesday 07 Apr
Updated Tuesday 07 Apr 17:54
Academy

Onariase signs pro deal

 
West Ham United’s newest professional footballer is Emmanuel Onariase.

Known as ‘Manny’ to everyone at the Club, the towering centre-half put pen to paper earlier this week, climaxing an outstanding season of development for the south London-born defender.

The 18-year-old, who stands well over six-feet tall and is blessed with impressive technical ability, is delighted that the Hammers have invested in his future.

“I’m grateful because it’s amazing,” said Onariase, who was named on the substitutes’ bench for the recent Barclays Premier League fixture at Arsenal. “The Club has done so much for me and I’ve improved so much here, so I just need to get to the next level now and keep on excelling.

“It’s gone from almost zero to 100 this season, but that’s football. People get injured and you’re the next in, so you have to stay on your game and always be ready.”

For Onariase, signing a professional contract is all the more satisfying when you hear that he was initially turned down by the club as a young schoolboy before succeeding in a second trial at the age of 12.

“I played for my district in year seven and we played against West Ham and Jerome John asked me to come over to the Club to train, but I was told I wasn’t good enough,” he recalled. “I initially came as a midfielder, so I went back to my school and then went training with Millwall.

“West Ham asked me to come back over again as a defender and they offered me a contract!”
The Club has done so much for me and I’ve improved so much here, so I just need to get to the next level now and keep on excelling


Having been named on the bench already, Onariase is now targeting further opportunities at the highest level, but he knows it will not be easy.

“To be involved was amazing and I want to thank all the first-team players for making me feel welcome and creating a great atmosphere,” he smiled. “Being on the pitch to warm-up at the Emirates was great and it was me in my element – it was an amazing feeling. It was an inspirational experience and I want to feel it some more.

“I never try to second-guess things because you never know what is going to happen. I just have to continue working hard, doing my bit and the rest will follow.

“The Club obviously has faith in me, so now it’s about going out on loan and getting first-team experience, then coming back and seeing how things go.”

While is making great strides forward on the pitch, the one-time head boy at St Thomas the Apostle College in Nunhead is also an outstanding academic student off it, having achieved an A* grade in maths and five As in his GCSE exams

“I did my AS-Levels in maths and physics last year and I was working towards my A-Levels, but I’ve gone full-time as a footballer now so I need to make sure the numbers that matter are scoring more and conceding less!” smiled West Ham’s newest professional.

Onariase made a point of thanking those who have supported his fledgling career, including his school for allowing him out on day-release to train with the Hammers, his former teachers, Academy coach and scout Jerome John and his colleagues, his parents, his three brothers and his closest friends.

Writing in his regular From the Academy blog, Academy Manager Terry Westley praised the improvements made by Onariase this season and challenged him to work his way into the first-team squad.

“The fact that Manny was previously only on a schoolboy contract, rather than a scholarship, just goes to show how hard he’s been working over the course of the season,” said Westley.

“It is a fantastic achievement for him and a proud day for everyone who knows him. Of course, it’s a proud moment for everyone at the Academy and it is a sign that we are going in the right direction.

“Manny was on the bench for the first team at Arsenal last month and now, like Reece Oxford and Reece Burke, he needs to push on and try and get into the first-team squad on a regular basis.”