Manning: We look fit, strong and ready for the season

Liam Manning


West Ham United U23 coach Liam Manning believes his side look fit and ready for their Premier League 2 campaign despite a strong pre-season ending in a frustrating defeat away at Watford on Friday.

The Hammers were beaten 2-1 in Hertfordshire at the Hornets’ training ground – only their second loss in pre-season – thanks to goals from Kiko Femenia and Marc Navarro coming before Nathan Holland halved the deficit.

But reflecting on the build-up to the league season as a whole, Manning expressed his delight with the way things have gone both during training in east London and in games at home and abroad.

He said: “It’s my fourth pre-season here now, and we look fitter this season in my opinion, so overall we’re happy with the way things have gone. We look strong, and the games have been a good test, challenge and variety. 

“The style today was completely different to what we had, for example, at Barnet, so to have that broad range of styles to play against has been really good for us. 

“Everyone has got through it fully fit pretty much, Josh Pask and Grady Diangana came back in today and we have a lot of positives to now take into that game against Tottenham.”

The Hammers were facing a strong Watford side that included the likes of Isaac Success, Adrian Mariappa and Sebastian Prodl – a collection with vast Premier League experience between them.

We look fitter this season. We look strong, and the games have been a good test, challenge and variety

Liam Manning

And though the visitors were up against it in the opening period, Manning was pleased with the way his team turned things around in the second half to put pressure on their hosts.

“We were up against a decent team with a lot of senior players and first teamers,” he continued. “The first half wasn’t good but we really improved. The key message, though, that we said to them afterwards is that they need to be able to solve problems themselves on the pitch and not wait for the coach at half time to tell them what they need to be doing and dig them out. You can be four or five down by then.

“Once we did have the chat, you could see; there was more shape, structure, we created more and in general it was a much better performance. The goals we conceded were bad goals though; we defended really poorly a few times for the goals and you get caught out. It’s frustrating but overall the game was a great challenge for us.

“When you look at things, it was good to have Grady Diangana back in who has been out for a while, Josh Pask hasn’t played a lot of football so him too, and Xande Silva came in and showed a few nice touches and showed his pace and strength. 

“Nathan Holland caused the full-back who has played in the Premier League all sorts of problems one-on-one as well, being pacey and direct and he got his goal. You create your own fortune when you’re positive and direct and willing to run.”

The Hammers take on Tottenham Hotspur in their opening Premier League 2 game a week on Monday at Spurs’ home venue of Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium.