Collison: U18s go to Leicester with a heavy heart on Saturday

Jack Collison


West Ham United’s youth team return to action on Saturday morning, when they travel to Leicester City in U18 Premier League South.

The fixture is sure to be an emotional occasion for all concerned following the recent helicopter tragedy which took the lives of Foxes chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others shortly after the Hammers’ Premier League trip to King Power Stadium a fortnight ago.

Coach Jack Collison will lay a wreath before kick-off and says his players will also pay their heartfelt respects to everyone affected.

“Obviously, it will be a difficult day for reasons away from football this weekend, and we travel to Leicester in very sad circumstances,” said Collison.

“We send all our condolences and thoughts to everyone affected by the tragedy at Leicester City football club and all the family and friends of those who passed away.

“We will pay our respects on Saturday by laying a wreath there and will then look to help them get back to playing football.

“Football is a great game and it always unites us, as I know personally, but it is with a heavy heart that we go to Leicester on Saturday.”

Football is a great game and it always unites us, as I know personally, but it is with a heavy heart that we go to Leicester on Saturday

Jack Collison

The Hammers head to Leicester seeking to end a run of four straight defeats in the league, but Collison believes his team are not far away from producing a winning performance.

“Focusing on the football, we’ve had a tricky run in terms of our results, but the performances have been pretty good in parts,” he explained. “It’s also been a great opportunity for the younger players to get some exposure to U18 football.

“If you go back to the Chelsea game, we had four schoolboys playing, which was great for them and their development.

“When you blood youngsters, sometimes that lack of experience or physical prowess can hurt you, but we go to Leicester full of confidence and belief after a good couple of weeks on the training pitch.”

Jay Mingi

While schoolboys such as Jamal Baptiste, Jayden Fevrier and Amadou Diallo have done themselves no harm with their performances in recent matches, Collison is happy to be welcoming a number of full-time scholars back into his squad for Saturday’s game.

With the FA Youth Cup third round on the horizon, the coach is also hoping the incentive of being involved in that tie will add extra motivation to his players.

“It’s nice that we’re getting a few players back from injury now in Kristijan Belic, Jeremy Ngakia, Jay Mingi, Kyle McGeachy and Dan Chesters. They’ve all been out for a while, but we’re happy that they’re now back and knocking on the door and that creates competition for places.

“They’ll all be looking to get their heads down and get themselves in the team, especially with the FA Youth Cup around the corner, which is a really important competition for everyone involved in it. They all want to be playing in that.”

Collison is also hoping the likes of Mingi, Chesters and Emmanuel Longelo, who scored, will take confidence from helping the U23s score an impressive 2-1 win over Portuguese giants FC Porto in midweek.

“It was pleasing to see a number of them involved in the Premier League International Cup win over Porto on Tuesday, because, ultimately, we want to progress players to the U23s and then further than that.

“Dan Chesters is 16 and he’s started the last two U23 games after a frustrating start to the season, so for him to have had a positive impact on those two games has been great.

“Hopefully he continues to keep progressing and working hard, as is the case with all the other players.”