Midfielder delighted by form

West Ham United Academy defender Declan Rice hailed the impact made by substitute Jahmal Hector-Ingram as the U18s made it four wins in a row.

The young Hammers continued their climb of the Barclays U18 Premier League Southern Division table with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Saturday, capped by a winner from hotshot striker Hector-Ingram.

Republic of Ireland U17 star Rice insisted that every member of Steve Potts’ squad had contributed to the recent run of victories, including England youth international Hector-Ingram, whose first goal of the campaign added to a Villa own-goal to secure another three points.

“Everyone is over the moon with that result,” revealed Rice. “We all knew it was going to be a really hard fixture, but we all stuck together and got our rewards at the end.

“The boys worked tremendously hard to get the result we needed. We created numerous chances in the first half but failed to put any of them away.

“In the second half though, we brought on Jahmal and he really was a threat up front and managed to score the winner for us.

“Beating Villa means we have now won four games in a row and everyone at the Academy is buzzing. We now have to keep our focus and prepare for Brighton on Thursday.”

Prior to the current run of victories, the Hammers managed just two draws and three defeats from their opening five fixtures, when the impressive performances they produced at the start of the season were not rewarded with positive results.

When asked for his opinions on what has changed in recent weeks, Rice paid tribute to the leadership of coaching duo Potts and Mark Phillips.

“We’ve been working hard during training, taking on board that everything Steve and Mark have been telling us,” he continued.

“Hard work, along with excellent coaching, really help when we transfer them onto the pitch and we’ve shown that in the past four games.”

After their victories against Chelsea and Reading at Chadwell Heath, it was reported that the Academy players sang the Hammers anthem I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles at the top of their voices to celebrate their results.

At Villa, their vocal chords were spared, but music was still the theme following another fine victory.

“We didn’t sing Bubbles after the Villa game in the dressing room but we did have the music blasting out to celebrate! We usually save Bubbles for when we win at home!”

First-year scholar Rice has enjoyed a productive campaign so far, having been voted FAI U15 Player of the Year in the summer.

When asked to pinpoint his high point of 2015/16, scoring in a win over former club Chelsea was the teenager’s natural response.

“That Chelsea game was definitely my highlight of the season so far,” he smiled. “It’s always a nice feeling to score when your team wins and when it comes against your former club, it’s magical!

“I’ve been very happy with the way I have started this season but it’s important that I keep performing at a high standard so I can keep my place in the team.

“Hopefully, after Christmas, if I can keep performing well, I might be able to get a few more Development Squad games under my belt.”

Prior to that, West Ham host Brighton & Hove Albion at Little Heath on Thursday lunchtime, and Rice knows that the Hammers will need to hit the heights again if they are to make it five wins on the spin.

“We cannot afford to underestimate Brighton because we know they are a very good team that have been scoring lots of goals this season,” he pointed out.

“The aim is for us to just continue what we’ve been doing and hopefully we can get another win to extend our run.”

Kick-off on Thursday is at 12noon, with admission and parking at Little Heath both completely free of charge!

U18s: Brown, Eggleton, Akinola, Rice, Pask, Borg, Dobson, Sylvestre, Powell, Diangana, Kanu (Hector-Ingram)
Subs not used: Longelo, Barrett, Lewis