Dev Squad head for Chelmsford

West Ham United’s busy pre-season continues as the Development Squad pay a visit to Chelmsford City on Friday evening.

Fresh from leading the first team through the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round, Academy Director Terry Westley will take a squad of young professionals and scholars to Essex’s county town for a 7.30pm kick-off.

A number of the players who featured against FC Lusitans – Reece Oxford, Josh Cullen, Lewis Page and Djair Parfitt-Williams – are in the squad, alongside a host of other promising Academy prospects.

“We’re looking to the game because some of them have been back in since 22 June and the training and the camp with the first-team players was very encouraging, so now to see them perform on their own will be of big interest to us,” Westley began.

“The likes of Kyle Knoyle, Sam Westley, Josh Pask, Amos Nasha and Jordan Brown need a game so we’re looking forward to getting that group all together to play that game.

“It’s a chance to impress the new staff and to push for places against Colchester, Charlton and Norwich. The players who have played in the Europa League have laid down the gauntlet and said ‘We are good enough to do that’. All of our questions, we hope, will be answered.”

Westley believes Chelmsford will provide his young squad with a test they need to rise to if they are going to make their mark in senior football.

“We had a bit of a link with Chelmsford last year as we sent Jaanai Gordon there on loan and took one of their youngsters, Joe Ward, on trial,” Westley confirmed.

“At that age, our players have got to be able to play at that level so it’s a test for them and a case of
finding out if we can go there and play at that level.

“What has encouraged me in pre-season with the Cork trip and integration with our senior players is that they have really shown what they are capable of. Now it’s about producing that on the pitch and the first opportunity to do that is against Chelmsford, who are a decent side.

“Our players have got to be able to handle that level and playing against men.”

Admission prices are £10 Adults, £7 Concessions and £3 U16s. Please note that Chelmsford City can only accept cash on the turnstiles. Cards cannot be accepted.

Following Friday’s game, the Academy host Dagenham & Redbridge at Rush Green on Saturday morning, when Westley and his coaching staff will give the younger scholars and older schoolboys their first pre-season experience.

“We’re playing against Dagenham and we took the fixture knowing it would be an Under-16 and 17 game for us,” Westley continued. “In the last 12 months we have encouraged that by boys playing up age-groups and that is the start of their journey for this season.”

One player who could feature against the Daggers is defender Tunji Akinola, who has signed his scholarship this week after completing no fewer than 12 GCSE examinations.

Akinola becomes the seventh schoolboy to commit his future to the Club, much to the delight of Westley and his staff.

“To get 100 per cent retention from that group was a challenge in the first 12 months, but we are delighted that Oxford, Scully, Neufville, Hector-Ingram, Rice, Powell and now Akinola have committed their future to the Club,” Westley enthused.

“To be fair, it was never really a doubt with Tunji, but he was concentrating on doing 12 GCSEs as he is an A-grade student, so we left him to do his school work and take time off from football, because we knew how important it was to him.

“We’re delighted to get all of those on board and now the next step is 18s, 21s and first-team football.”