Academy Manager Westley reflects on 'terrific campaign'
Academy Manager Terry Westley reflects on a terrific 2017/18 season for everyone associated with the Academy of Football...
The close-season is a chance for everyone to look back on what has been a terrific Academy campaign, on and off the pitch.
First of all, I’d like to offer my congratulations to the two Academy award-winners from our annual Player Awards evening two-and-a-half weeks ago; well done to Declan Rice, who was named Young Hammer of the Year for the second successive season and Conor Coventry, who picked up the Dylan Tombides Award.
As we review 2017/18, we must start with our most senior team – the U23s – who finished in the top half of Premier League 2 Division 1.
This is a fantastic achievement, given last season, the side won promotion from the league below via the play-offs. To not only compete, but finish fifth, in their maiden term at this level is brilliant.
An U21 side also competed in the Checkatrade Trophy for us, the second time we have been involved in the competition. Once again, we found all our fixtures against senior Football League outfits extremely valuable for the development of our young players. To reach the knockout rounds, along with only three other Academy sides, is a success to be celebrated.
In the second half of the season particularly, we’ve seen a number of players go out on loan, with many impressing and showing how valuable their time at the Academy of Football has been as they experience first team football week-in, week-out. Reece Burke, Moses Makasi, Reece Oxford, Martin Samuelsen and Toni Martinez all became important players at their loan clubs and have been a credit to West Ham United.
Staying with senior football but instead looking at our own first team, Declan is the obvious success to come out of the Academy this term, with the 19-year-old making 31 first-team appearances this past season.
The defender has become an important player in the first-team squad, showing his quality and versatility throughout the season, acting as a model professional at all times. Our captain at U23 level last year, Dec has made everybody at Chadwell Heath proud with his achievements, and we hope more are to come in the future.
There were also first-team debuts for Nathan Holland, Sead Haksabanovic and Toni Martinez, who joined Mark Noble, Josh Cullen, Reece Oxford, Reece Burke and Domingos Quina as Academy graduates or players who have turned out for the first team this term, while many others were included in matchday squads.
Internationally, over 30 Academy players across all age-groups were called-up by national teams, including many of the already mentioned names, with Declan also winning his first senior Republic of Ireland cap.
The Academy has a wider role to play than just the progression of our young players, however. Over the year, many of our staff have earned their own qualifications and badges, furthering their knowledge of the game; a huge positive in the Club’s future.
The redevelopment of the Academy’s Chadwell Heath site will also massively benefit us in the long-run, and we thank the Board for their continued support on this project and throughout the season.
The success of the inaugural Official Coaching Association scheme and the continued mentoring of our young players by the likes of Matt Upson and Paul Konchesky are also worth mentioning.
But at this point, I’d like to thank every supporter for their support of the Academy this season, and wish everyone a fantastic summer.