Cullen and Burke raring to go at Bolton
They say a week is a long time in football. For Josh Cullen, that well-worn cliché could be altered to just two days!
On Sunday morning, the 21-year-old Hammers midfielder woke up at the Landhaus Wachtelhof Hotel in Rotenburg, Germany, hours after playing 60 minutes for Slaven Bilic’s team in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Werder Bremen in the second leg of their Betway Cup clash.
Just 24 hours later, he was back at the Club’s Rush Green training ground, putting pen to paper on a new three-year contract, before then heading straight up the M6 with fellow Academy graduate Reece Burke to sign a five-month loan agreement with Bolton Wanderers.
The Hammers pair met their new team-mates and manager Phil Parkinson at their first training session on Tuesday morning and, with a Championship curtain-raiser against Leeds United at the Macron Stadium lined up on Sunday, a whirlwind 48 hours left Cullen in excited mood.
“I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “I spoke to the gaffer and we've both agreed that the best thing for me is to go and get some time in the Championship and we'll take it from there.
“Obviously the manager still sees my future here and he has said that to me.
“I've signed a new contract, so that's good, and I'll keep playing games and hopefully come back in January or next season and play for West Ham, because that's my dream and what I'll continue to try and do.”
Having impressed Bilic and his staff during both his loan spell at League One Bradford last season and at the pre-season training camps in Austria and Germany in recent weeks, Cullen’s new deal at London Stadium is a clear sign that his long-term future is very much in the claret and blue.
However, with the likes of Pedro Obiang, Cheikou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini and Edimilson Fernandes vying for central midfield berths at London Stadium, the opportunity of regular first team football in the Championship – with a manager he knows well and respects – will ensure a more productive 2017/18 campaign for the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international.
“Phil Parkinson being at Bolton was obviously a big factor in my decision,” he said. “I know how he works, he knows how I work and we had a good relationship when I worked with him before, so I'm looking forward to linking back up with him.
“Hopefully I can get the games under my belt and put good performances in and keep learning and get more experience.
"They've just come up so it's going to be a challenge as we'll be playing against some massive clubs who have come down from the Premier League, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
“And it'll be good to have Reece up there with me as he's a great lad. Hopefully we can both do well.”
The pair could make their Trotters debuts in Sunday's Championship opener against Leeds United and Burke cannot wait.
He said: “I’m really glad the deal is done. I can’t wait to get started and our first game is this week, so hopefully I can train well and get a chance to start in that one. I’ve not played against Leeds before but it’s a big game and I’d love to be involved.
“I’m going to work hard and try and get as many games as I can this year; that’s what a loan move is all about.
“Last season didn’t go as well as I wanted it to because of injuries but hopefully this season will be different.”