U18s aiming to kick-off season with win at Norwich

Joshua Okotcha is one of 12 first-year scholars who could feature at Norwich


West Ham United kick-off their U18 Premier League South challenge with a trip to Norwich City on Saturday.

The Hammers, who finished tenth in the 12-team table last season, will have a new-look coaching team in charge in the shape of Mark Phillips and Jack Collison.

And, with pre-season victories at Southend United, Colchester United and Ipswich Town under their belts in recent weeks, Academy Director Terry Westley is in optimistic mood as the youth team prepare for their early-morning trip to Norfolk.

The last few results we have kept clean sheets and we’ve dominated the ball, we hope to take that into the game against Norwich

Terry Westley

“I have to say Jack and Mark have worked really well together during the pre-season,” said Westley. “With the style in which we play, we look in good shape.

“The last few results we have kept clean sheets and we’ve dominated the ball, we hope to take that into the game against Norwich. But youth team games are never easy, and I’ve seen that over 30-plus years.

“You leave the training ground at 7.15 in the morning, you’ve got to travel there and that’s not easy for a young player. We know it will be difficult at Norwich, but if they can continue the form they’ve shown in the last couple of games, I think they could have a very positive season.”


Academy Director Terry Westley (right) with Mark Phillips and Jack Collison


Saturday’s season opener at Colney Training Centre will give West Ham’s new intake of first-year scholars their first opportunity to impress in a competitive environment.

Harrison Ashby, Samuel Caiger, Daniel Chesters, Jake Giddings, William Greenidge, Samuel Nsumbu, Joshua Okotcha , Lennon Peake, Keenan Appiah-Forson, Veron Parkes, Daniel Jinadu and Sebastian Nebula will all begin life as full-time footballers this weekend.

Also part of that process is blooding schoolboy players by having them ‘play up’ in the U18s, as will be the case at Norwich, with youth-team players doing likewise in the U23s.

Westley is looking forward to seeing how they perform, with the hope of one of them developing into the next Mark Noble or Declan Rice.

“Throughout pre-season, we’ve really worked on making sure we’ve got all the fundamentals right,” said Westley. “We’ve been really making sure they play in a very similar tone and philosophy that the U23s have done in the last couple of seasons, which have been successful; making sure we really look after the individual.

“We’ve got a player who comes through the system each year. This weekend, for example, we’ll have a young boy, Jamaal Baptiste, starting in the U18s, who is only 14 – an U15 – this season. An eye on who plays in each team is important to me.”