Burke's toughest test yet

Teenage centre-half Reece Burke is making the most of his prolonged stay in the first team
Teenager Reece Burke was relieved to come through his toughest yet, as the Barclays Premier League novice enjoyed a third successive start at Aston Villa on Saturday. 

Though the Villans were to prevail 1-0, 18-year-old Burke battled gamely against Christian Benteke and co, as the hosts mounted a first-half onslaught. 

Academy graduate Burke, like the Hammers, improved as the game wore on and said he is learning bucket loads alongside James Collins in the process. 

“Out of the three games I thought this was the biggest test for me,” he confirmed. “I thought I did well on Saturday. 

“I think I had a better second half than first. I guess I was a little bit nervous in the first half, maybe, but I'm glad of my third Premier League start. 

“There's always room for improvement and as a young lad, playing alongside Collins you learn a lot, so playing in these games is all about experience.

“I'm delighted. The last three weeks have been absolutely magnificent for me. It means so much. Hopefully I get another start and keep knocking on the door. But I feel like I'm doing alright.”  

Burke was at a loss to explain the visitors’ slow start at Villa Park but felt manager Sam Allardyce’s half-time intervention had plenty to do with a much-improved second-half showing. 

Big Sam called upon Alex Song and Nene to steady the West Ham ship and though the equaliser never came, their introduction at least changed the game’s pattern.  

He continued: “The way we started the game was a little disappointing, going 1-0 down as well. But the gaffer made a few substitutions, changed the formation and I thought we had a better second half, but still didn't manage to nick that goal.

“In the first half they had a lot of the ball. There were quite a lot of runners from midfield. It was hard for us. But the way we changed the formation, we had more of the ball and more control in the second half.” 

While Tom Cleverley’s 31st-minute goal was the first conceded on Burke’s watch, the Hammers have goalscoring problems of their own. Cheikhou Kouyate’s leveller at Leicester City was West Ham's last from open play and Burke hopes the tide will turn when Everton visit the Boleyn Ground next weekend.        

He continued: “It's unlucky. It's been three games now - against Burnley we obviously got the penalty - but other than that we're struggling to score at the moment. 

“Hopefully the work on the training ground will come out against Everton next week and maybe score a few then.”