Phillips relishing Play Off challenge

Mark Phillips cannot wait to compete against the best sides in the country
Having beaten Brighton & Hove Albion on the their final day of the season, the Hammers faced an anxious wait to see if other results meant they finished in the top four and thereby finish in the Elite Play-Off group.

Thankfully, Tottenham Hotspur’s win over Arsenal was exactly the result the young Hammers were looking for, leaving them in the coveted fourth spot with 37 points from their 22 games.

Reflecting on the achievement, Academy coach Mark Phillips said: “It is going to sound terribly big-headed but I actually predicted we would finish in the top four a few weeks back. I always said 37 points would be about enough.

“A big congratulations to everyone involved because it is something to celebrate! We’re all looking forward to challenging ourselves against the best teams in the country.”

Reflecting on the U18s’ regular league campaign, Phillips was pleased with another productive season.
He continued: “I think when he’s played Declan Rice has been outstanding. Grady Diangana has had a very consistent season, and of late Noha Sylvestre has had more consistency as captain.

“Alfie Lewis is another that has impressed me. I’ve known him since he was eight or nine and he’s always had that vision and awareness on the ball. He’s a massive asset to the Academy and I think he’ll be a big asset for the club in the future.”

The experienced coach is also an avid Hammer, who travelled to watch Reece Burke and Josh Cullen feature in Bradford City’s 2-2 draw with Rochdale.

The two loanees have flourished since joining the West Yorkshire club, with Burke a candidate for their player of the season while the Bantams are unbeaten since Cullen joined.

Phillips continued: “I saw Reece after the game he said he thought it was the worst game he’s had for Bradford but I don’t think he was particularly poor.

“Speaking to some of the fans and the staff there, he has done really, really well. I spoke Wendy, their player liaison officer and she said they are both two of the nicest, genuine players she’s worked with.”

The U18s open their Play-Off campaign on Saturday 27 February with a home tie with London rivals Fulham.