Cullen’s dual debut aim

Josh Cullen cannot wait to make his competitive debut for both West Ham United and Republic of Ireland U19s

It is an exciting time to be Josh Cullen.

The promising midfielder was named on the West Ham United bench for the first time for the recent Barclays Premier League fixture at Arsenal.

This week, the 18-year-old midfielder is set to make his competitive international debut for Republic of Ireland in the European U19 Championship Elite Round.

For Cullen, the prospect of facing mini-group hosts Germany, Slovakia and Czech Republic – starting on Thursday 26 March – for a place at this summer’s finals in Greece is one he is relishing.

“It’s a good standard of football and the group we are in is a very competitive one,” the No39 began. “Germany are one of the countries that everybody is looking up to at the moment, while Slovakia are actually considered to be the favourites.

“It’s going to be a great test but we believe in ourselves as a team. Only one team goes through, which makes it even tougher, so we have got to be on our game.

“It’s a great experience to play against good teams like Germany, but we have beaten Holland and Sweden this year so we believe in ourselves and we want to go as far as we can.
For Cullen, who was born and raised in Essex but has Irish ancestry, representing Ireland is special to him and his family.

“International football is a different experience than club football. At West Ham, we train and play and generally go home afterwards, but with Ireland we are in a hotel for eleven or 12 days and it’s a great experience.

“I am proud to be playing for Ireland and making my family proud at the same time. I missed the Euro U17s and the first set of U19 qualifiers through injury, so I am looking forward to make my first competitive appearance.”

Back at West Ham, Cullen is training regularly with Sam Allardyce’s first-team squad as he pushes for his first senior appearance in Claret and Blue.

With the likes of Mark Noble, Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Kevin Nolan also at the Club, the teenager knows he may have to be patient, but that will not stop him giving his all every single day.
I am a West Ham fan, so I want to see the first team doing well and the Club doing well
Having got into the matchday 18 at the Emirates, Cullen is keen for more opportunities to impress.

“It’s something you grow up dreaming of, so to be involved in a Premier League game as a West Ham fan is great. The next step for me is to carry on working hard and to get my debut.

“Being involved somewhere like the Emirates made it more memorable because it is a magnificent stadium with a pitch like a carpet and the facilities there are on a different level.

“I don’t feel out of place when I train with the first-team squad so I just need to keep working hard to improve my game to get to first-team standard.

“I have played U18 and U21 football over the last season and a half, so now it’s about playing more U21 football and trying to stand out at that level to push myself into the first-team squad or go out on loan and get some first-team experience.

“So, by doing the best I can and continuing to work hard, hopefully those chances will come.”

Whether he makes his debut before the current season is out or not, Cullen is happy to be part of an improving West Ham squad – one which looks on course to finish in the top half of the Barclays Premier League for the second time in three seasons.

“I am a West Ham fan, so I want to see the first team doing well and the Club doing well. We do have a quite a few players in my position, so it’s tough to see a way through, but at the same time it is a privilege and a challenge to work with the players I watched before I got anywhere near this standard.

“Now I am closer to it than ever before, I need to take any little chance that I get.

“The feedback I have had from the coaches gives me confidence and if I can take what I have done in training into games then hopefully I can break through into the West Ham first team. That’s the aim.”