For seven seasons, Emmanuel Longelo always had the comfort of having his big brother around the Academy of Football if he ever needed him.
Having signed for West Ham United when he was a ten-year-old, the attacker had older sibling Rosaire – a year older – to look up to and guide him at Chadwell Heath.
But this campaign, after Rosaire departed east London for the North East and Newcastle United, the younger Longelo has been going it alone.
It is fair to say the winger has handled it pretty well. With two appearances for the U23s, the 17-year-old has achieved one of his targets already and now has his sights set on further progression.
It’s very inspiring for us in the Academy at the moment, with those guys coming through and making their debuts
“I wanted to make my debut for the U23s this season, and I’ve already played twice,” the youngster said, reflecting on his start to the season. “It’s been a good start and I have achieved a couple of the things I wanted to.
“Being around that team has been a very good experience and I’ve learnt a lot more about myself and football by being with that group.
“I hope to be in that squad more regularly now because I think it will help me continue to improve as a player.”
Versatile forward Longelo kicked-off in fine form for the U18s, netting two goals and assisting a third as the Hammers won their opening four Premier League matches.
That form saw him called-up to the U23s for Premier League 2 Division 1 fixtures at Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton and Checkatrade Trophy tie at Exeter City.
While all three matches ended in defeat, the teenager was in the team for Sunday's Premier League 2 win over Swansea City and is retaining a positive outlook and is eager to follow in the footsteps of Grady Diangana, Joe Powell and Conor Coventry, all of whom have made their first-team debuts this term.
“It’s very inspiring for us in the Academy at the moment, with those guys coming through and making their debuts,” Longelo confirmed.
“We know that if we can keep working hard then we can hopefully get our opportunity if we are playing well enough. It’s good to know that there is a path to the first team there and that’s what we have to have our minds set on.”
With two goals to his name this season, Longelo is also setting his sights on becoming a more prolific marksman in the future.
Able to play anywhere across the front line, the tall, strong and technically-gifted forward has all the attributes required to be a regular scorer.
“I would describe myself as a fast attacker who is tricky,” he explained. “I have scored a couple of times for the U18s this year but I want to focus on being consistent in front of goal and scoring and creating more goals.
“If I can do that for the U18s, I think that will go hand-in-hand with making the step up to be with the U23s more regularly and that will take me one more step closer to being involved with the first team, which is ultimately where every scholar wants to be.”