Academy Manager Terry Westley was throughly impressed with West Ham United's U18s after they defeated Reading 4-0 at Rush Green on Saturday.
With the Hammers completing their season before the majority of their Barclays U18 Premier League South rivals, Mark Phillips’ side got off to the best of starts when Djair Parfitt-Williams cooly slotted past Lewis Ward after latching onto Joe Powell’s lofted pass.
Minutes later, Powell turned from provider to scorer after being allowed too much space in the Royals' penalty area, before the 16-year-old winger then picked up another assist when he crossed for centre back Josh Pask to head home a third for the hosts.
The Hammers continued to dominate the possession throughout the second half, with Parfitt-Williams heading home his second and West Ham’s fourth in the closing minutes.
Speaking to whufc.com after the game, Westley revealed how impressed he was with the performance from the young Hammers, especially compared to their disappointing defeat at home to Norwich just a week earlier.
“The performance was as good as I’ve seen from any of our teams this season, from the younger teams right up to the U21s,” admitted Westley. “The way that we controlled the game and every individual within that team gave an outstanding performance.
“What we are looking for as an Academy is an individual to come through the system and play for the first team.
“It’s was always going to be a tough game in very windy conditions against a Reading team that needed to win to sneak into the top four. It wasn’t a straightforward game where there is nothing on it as the opposition had something to play for, but I’m absolutely delighted with the way we played.
“I’m also delighted with the work that Mark and the team have done in training with the team over the past week because it was a completely different performance from the Norwich performance. That’s the job of the coach and all of us as we look to help the boys get better and prepare them hopefully for first team football in the future.”
After smashing themselves into a three goal lead after just 27 minutes, Westley added how pleased he was that the Hammers refused to let their Berkshire opponents back into the game.
“Both Mark and I said to the boys at half time that they really needed to set some objectives for themselves both as a team and as an individual in the second half,” continued Westley. “They should all be thinking whether they could push on again or whether they could get another goal which will really motivate the team as a whole, but the individual objectives were just as important.
“It’s all about game management and it’s the same at all levels. If the first team are winning 3-0 at Upton Park then they need to do what’s needed to see the game out. That includes not giving a lazy pass, not making a mistake and we did that against Reading.
“It rounded the game off nicely by the team getting a fourth right at the end too.”
The Hammers ended the regular season with 32 points from 22 games this season, which Westley believes is a solid return for a Hammers teams boasting a number of players that have been pushed up age groups.
“We have some good players at West Ham and I think first and foremost, you have to make sure that the quality of the players in your team is good enough. Dave Hunt and his team have recruited some really good players and it’s now up to the rest of us as coaching staff to make sure that they continue to progress through the pathway into the U21’s and then onto the first team.
“People have to realise that against Reading, we had Vashon Neufville, Reece Oxford, Jahmal Hector-Ingram and the boy Joe Powell, who was very effective on the wing, all playing U18s football when they are still in the U16’s age group.
“Some people might look at results now and again and think that the U18s have lost a game, but we were a very young team again at the weekend.
“That’s one thing that I really brought to the table in the first six months is that we will be pushing players up age groups and really challenge them. You’ve seen that in the U21s too where Oxford, Powell and Pask have been playing.
“We’ve been a young team in all our more senior Academy teams and that’s the way forward. It’s been a decent first half to the season and a good opening seven months for myself and I think that by 1 July, we will have things in place to really kick on again next season."