Manning pleased with International Cup experience

Liam Manning


West Ham United U23s coach Liam Manning was proud of the Hammers’ young side despite a 2-0 defeat to Benfica on Tuesday.

The hosts, facing the Portuguese outfit in their final Premier League International Cup fixture, battled hard against an experienced Benfica B team – who play their football in the second tier in Portugal.

24-year-old Alan Junior Oliveira scored both the visitors’ goals, lobbing Rihards Matrevics with the first and heading over the big Latvian to score a second before the half hour mark.

But Terry Westley’s team kept their heads up and went close on a number of occasions. Their third and final group fixture ended in defeat, but Manning was pleased nonetheless.

He said: “We’re really pleased with the outcome of the game and how we’ve come out of it. We always knew it was going to be tough given the age of our side but it was a brilliant experience.

We always knew it was going to be tough given the age of our side but it was a brilliant experience. We had two U16s playing

Liam Manning

Youngster Josh Okotcha impressed

“We had two U16s playing and we looked at the age of some of theirs and two were 24.

“The whole experience of playing in this competition has been great. The games programme is terrific this year, it’s a step up from last year and the variation in games is great.

“It’s been a great experience for us. It’s been completely different to the teams we play in Premier League 2 and in the Checkatrade, so it’s great.”

Josh Okotcha and Will Greenidge, both of whom are 15-years-old, started at Billericay Town’s AGP Arena, and although full-back Greenidge was substituted after picking up an early injury, Okotcha impressed.

“Josh did well,” Manning continued. “He has been playing in the youth team regularly and he was in the team tonight on a combination of merit and injuries.

“It was a great opportunity and him grasping that opportunity, he will be really pleased. He’s now got to keep working hard week-in, week-out in the youth team.

“Now the focus [for the U23s] is on Friday [when we take on Arsenal]. It’s a big game, and hence our line-up tonight.

“It’s a tough game and we want to put in a good performance and get a positive result.”