West Ham United’s young professionals enjoyed an up-and-down weekend in Hong Kong as they finished as runners-up in the Shield competition at the HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens for the second year in succession.
The Hammers, who had reached the Cup final of the prestigious tournament in 2015 and 2016 and won the Shield in 2017, were edged out 2-1 by Aston Villa following a busy two days of action at Hong Kong Football Club in Happy Valley.
West Ham took a strong squad to the Far East, with England U20 goalkeeper Nathan Trott, defenders Josh Pask, Tunji Akinola, Vashon Neufville and Joe Powell, midfielders Jeremy Ngakia, Alfie Lewis and forwards Nathan Holland and Oladapo Afolayan joining Dylan Tombides Award winner Conor Coventry on the trip.
Led by U18s joint-managers Steve Potts and Mark Phillips, West Ham won two of their Group A matches, defeating the local Yau Yee League Select 2-0 through goals from Powell and Holland and New Zealanders Wellington Phoenix 1-0 courtesy of another Holland strike, either side of a 3-0 defeat by Japanese side Kashima Antlers.
Six points out of nine secured second place in Group A behind Kashima Antlers and a Cup quarter-final with Scotland’s Glasgow Rangers, who ran out 2-0 winners to send the Hammers into the Shield semi-finals.
There, they overcame Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0, with goals from Ngakia, Holland and Afolayan, to set up a Shield final showdown with another U18 Premier League South rival in Aston Villa, with the Villans running out 2-1 winners, with Afolayan.
“We were very inconsistent, as at times we were the best team in the tournament and, at other times, the worst team in the tournament,” said Phillips.
“If we’d played to our potential, we could have won the tournament, but we didn’t quite find that top level often enough to do so.
“It was a great trip and cultural experience for the lads overall, though. As a group, their behaviour excellent and they represented the Club really well.”
The overall Cup competition was won by Newcastle United, who defeated Glasgow Rangers 1-0 in sudden-death extra-time.