Academy stars set for Saturday of London derbies

Ajibola Alese in action against Fulham U18s


Saturday is a big day for the Academy of Football, with both West Ham United's U23s and U18s both set for mouth-watering London derbies.

Mark Phillips and Jack Collison’s scholars kick-off the action at Little Heath at 10.30am, when they host Tottenham Hotspur in the U18 Premier League Southern Division.

And the action continues at Chigwell Construction Stadium at 1pm, when Liam Manning and Steve Potts’ U23s welcome Chelsea in Premier League 2 Division 1.

West Ham’s England U18 international defender Ajibola Alese, who signed his first professional contract in the summer, has appeared for both teams this season, captaining the former and starting Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy fixture at Bristol Rovers for the latter.

It remains to be seen which side the 18-year-old will be on Saturday but, if it is the U18s, Alese is determined to lead the Hammers to their fifth win in six matches to open the new campaign.

The challenge I set myself when I signed was to impress at this level in order to make that step up to the U23s

Ajibola Alese

“There’s a great buzz around at the moment and that’s what happens when you are winning and playing well,” he said, alluding to the U18s’ recent victories over Norwich City, Southampton, Swansea City and Fulham. “It motivates everyone because we want to be the best we can be every game.

“The lads who are injured are sitting there knowing they must work really hard while they’re out, because they won’t just walk straight back into this team.

“I’ve been skipper while Kristijan [Belic] has been injured and I am trying to be that presence on the pitch. I don’t think about it too much though – it doesn’t affect my game.

“It was a proud day for myself in the summer [signing my contract], and the challenge I set myself when I signed was to impress at this level in order to make that step up to the U23s.”

Admission and parking for the U18s’ meeting with Spurs at Little Heath are both free of charge, while Season Ticket Holders and Claret Members will also be admitted to Chigwell Construction Stadium for free to watch the U23s.

Non-members can watch the U23s in action, with tickets priced at £5 for Adults and £3 for O65s and U16s.