Hammer Holland targeting first-team breakthrough
If everything goes to plan for Nathan Holland, he will be the next Academy of Football star to make his name in West Ham United’s first team.
The exciting winger impressed on his return to action in Thursday’s 2-1 friendly win at Brentford, confirming the ankle injury problems which ruled him out for ten weeks are now behind him.
During his absence another graduate, Grady Diangana, forced his way into Manuel Pellegrini’s team after producing a two-goal show in the Carabao Cup win over Macclesfield Town in September.
However, the manager’s willingness to give youth a chance means Holland, who himself debuted in a win over Bolton Wanderers in the same competition last season, harbours realistic hopes of following his fellow 20-year-old into the first-team picture.
It was good to get a feel of what first-team football is like against a good Brentford team from the Championship
“I’ve got to be ready if and when my time comes,” said the lightning-quick wideman, who repeatedly troubled the Bees defence at Griffin Park. “I was close to getting my opportunity before the injury [when I was on the bench for the Carabo Cup game at AFC Wimbledon] and I just need to work hard and, if that opportunity arrives, I have to take it.”
Holland’s performance in front of Pellegrini will have done his chances of earning that opportunity no harm.
Playing up against an experienced Championship full-back in Brentford’s Moses Odubajo, the young Hammer was in eye-catching form, using his searing pace to burst past the defender on the outside and technical ability to cut inside and shoot on goal.
“It feels good to be back in action, especially with the first team,” said the No37. “I’ve been out for a while with an ankle injury and it was frustrating to pick it up when I did, but it’s part of football and there are many ups and downs you have to deal with as a player.
“It was good to get some minutes on Thursday. Friendlies can be slow paced and not as useful as they should be, but I thought it was a really good game. It was competitive and I enjoyed being part of it.
“It was good to get a feel of what first-team football is like against a good Brentford team from the Championship. It was useful for a lot of the players to get some game-time.”
While his own future is clearly the number one priority, Holland also expressed his delight at seeing Andy Carroll back in action on the centre forward’s comeback from his own ankle injury.
The pair spent plenty of time together in the gym as they worked their way back to fitness and Holland credited Carroll for keeping positive during their respective rehabilitations.
“For me, it was great to see Andy Carroll back in action, seeing I’ve seen how hard he has been working as we’ve been doing our rehab together in the gym.
“He has really looked after me and helped me keep my head up while I was out, so it was great to see him out there on the pitch again.”