Jack Collison says Saturday’s U18 Premier League South fixture at Reading will give West Ham United’s youngsters a chance to stake their claim for a starting place in the FA Youth Cup.
The Hammers travel to Berkshire for their first league match since losing 2-1 at Leicester City on 3 November.
Since then, however, the scholars have scored a superb 3-2 U18 Premier League Cup victory over Manchester City, ending a six-game losing run in all competitions – and a number of players have returned from injury.
“We go into the game on Saturday full of confidence after a very positive display against Manchester City," said coach Collison. “It’s been a good couple of weeks because we’ve got a lot of bodies back from injury now and there is a lot of competition for places right throughout the squad.
“It’s good because it’s challenging every player to perform on the training pitch and it’s bringing the best out of all the boys.
“It feels like we haven’t had a league game for quite a while, so it’ll be good to get back to action in the league. We had a good Under-17 friendly with Reading earlier this season, so I’m expecting another tough game, but it’s one we’re looking forward to.”
Defender Ajibola Alese and forwards Emmanuel Longelo and Bernardo Rosa were all back in U18 action against Manchester City after being on U23 duty, while goalkeeper Daniel Jinadu and two-goal schoolboy Amadou Diallo will also be hoping for another chance to impress against the Royals.
After facing Reading and hosting Brighton & Hove Albion in the league a week on Saturday, the Irons welcome the Seagulls to Chigwell Construction Stadium on Monday 3 December in the FA Youth Cup third round.
And Collison, who played in the Youth Cup for the Hammers and managed Peterborough United’s U18s in the competition in 2016, says every member of the squad has the opportunity to stake their claim for that prestigious tie.
“After Saturday’s game, we’ve then got one more league game as we build up to the FA Youth Cup, which is the biggest competition on the calendar and one everyone is looking forward to.
“Everyone is looking to get a place in the team for that tie, so I’m sure we will see the boys giving everything as they all want to be involved.”