Westley expecting tough Black Cats test

West Ham United Academy manager and head of coaching and player development Terry Westley is expecting a tough away trip to the North East as the Hammers face Sunderland on Monday.

The Development Squad are looking to continue to extent their good run of results after they beat Fulham 2-1 in their last game, a little over a month ago.

The vital win over the Cottagers at Rush Green came courtesy of early goals from Josh Cullen and Jordan Brown, both headers at the back post.  

Speaking ahead of the Hammers’ journey to Wearside, Westley said: “We’re all looking forward to the game. It’s an overnight game, travelling up on Sunday and then give it a right good go on Monday.”

Back in September, the Hammers secured their first win of the season with a 2-0 win over the Black Cats, thanks to a brace from top goal scorer Elliot Lee. Come Monday evening, Westley will be hoping for a similar result as they Hammers aim to avoid relegation.

“Having beaten them once before this season, that gives us confidence as does the win against Fulham in our last game.

“The way we played against Reading should also give us confidence. If we play to our attributes I’m sure we will give Sunderland a game.

“As their first team aren’t doing so well, you’d think their U21s would be doing all they can to catch the manager's attention and get involved in first team football. I expect them to be very competitive, and to try and impress Gus Poyet to try and get positions in their first team.”

The break in games follows a hectic schedule for some of the players who have been also been heavily involved in the U18s, most recently in an impressive 4-0 win over Reading last weekend.

“I was really pleased with the U18s' performance against Reading, I thought they played particularly well. We held a great team shape, individually and collectively the team did very well.

“Now the focus is on the U21s for Monday, making sure our players, who are all relatively young are able to compete to their best at this level.

“The break in fixtures has given us the chance to nail down some individual work and some double sessions. As we’re using such young players that brings its own restrictions, particularly some muscle injuries.”

Those players who are unlikely to feature include Reece Oxford and Djair Parfitt-Williams, while Elliot Lee and Raphael Spiegel have gone out on loan to Luton Town and Carlisle United respectively.

However, while they are missing a few players, the Dev Squad can welcome full-backs Lewis Page and Kyle Knoyle who are both back from injury.

“Kyle is back fit and raring to go and we welcome him back. Lewis has done particularly well this season and he’s been rewarded with an extension to his current contract. He’s been injured for a while, so we’re looking forward to having him back.”

While Lewis Page’s impressive displays have earned him a new contract, Academy prospects Reece Oxford and Joe Powell have also put pen to paper. Westley continued to praise the board’s support in producing home grown players.    

“Reece Oxford has decided to stay with us, when every man and his dog was after him but he decided to sign here, as has Joe Powell. It shows the intent of the board and the club as a whole.

“We’re delighted to have kept Lewis Page, Reece Oxford and Joe Powell. I’ve said from the day I got here, we have some talented players here. It’s now about finding a pathway into the team for them.”