Academy season not over yet!

The season may be approaching its conclusion, but there is still plenty of football being played by the Academy of Football

The season may be approaching its conclusion, but there is still plenty of football being played by the Academy of Football.

West Ham United’s outstanding youngsters returned from a successful weekend at the ICGT tournament in the Netherlands, where a squad featuring Reece Oxford, Martin Samuelsen and new boy Toni Martinez finished as runners-up.

The young Hammers beat host club FC Uitgeest 2-0, fellow Dutchmen AZ by a single goal and Brazilians Cruzeiro by the same scoreline to reach the semi-finals. There, West Ham drew 1-1 with Panathinaikos of Greece before going through on penalties.

The final saw the Londoners hold Atletico Paranense of Brazil to a goalless draw before the South American’s edged the shootout 6-5 in sudden-death.

This coming weekend, a similarly promising group will take part in the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong, where they will hope to go one better than last year’s final defeat by Spanish side Atletico Madrid.

Academy Director and Head of Coaching Player Development Terry Westley said he was proud of the way the players had approached both tournaments at the end of a long season.
“We had a successful trip to Holland, with Reece Oxford, Martin Samuelsen and debutant Toni Martinez all playing a full part,” Westley began.

“We went through the group stage without conceding a goal, with Toni scoring at the other end, and then won a keenly-contested semi-final with Panathinaikos. We just ran out of legs in the final, but we still pushed the Brazilian team to penalties.

“Reece took part in all the matches and played very well, despite the distraction of incorrect stories being published about his contract. The fact is that no contract has been turned down.

“The boy himself is looking to go on and establish himself as a West Ham player. Speculation is not helpful for any young player, especially as all Reece wants to do is go out and play as much football as he can.

“It is credit to Reece and his professionalism that he committed himself 100 per cent to the tournament at the end of a season during which he has made great strides and eleven first-team appearances, despite being in the first-year scholar age-group.

“Now, he and a number of our other young players have international duty to look forward to – Reece and Sam Howes have been called up by England U19s, while Martin has been called up by Norway U21s.

“I was also really pleased with Toni, who scored some goals and was a constant threat. It was great for him to have time with the squad and get used to what we do. He will be an asset to the Development Squad.”

This weekend, a ten-strong squad has travelled to the Far East for the prestigious HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens competition, where their group-stage opponents will include Leicester City.

“This is a very well-run tournament, with a good level of football, and we are always very well looked after during our stay in Hong Kong,” Westley explained.

“Mark Phillips has taken the squad out there with the likes of Alex Pike and Lewis Page ending a season which began with first-team debuts in the UEFA Europa League.

“Moses Makasi, Gradi Diangana, Tunji Akinola and Jahmal Hector-Ingram are also in the squad after signing new contracts with the Club, so we hope they will continue their development in what is a challenging environment.

“We look forward to seeing how the boys perform.”