Manning sets U23s target of Premier League 1 survival
Liam Manning admitted West Ham United’s U23s had not produced enough quality in the final third in Monday’s 1-0 Premier League 2 Division 1 defeat by Liverpool.
An inexperienced Hammers team matched the Reds for long periods at Chigwell Construction Stadium, only to be undone by a goal from Paul Glatzel 13 minutes from full-time.
West Ham did get into decent areas repeatedly, particularly when Jeremy Ngakia and Dan Kemp combined down the right flank, but the home side were unable to find a way through Liverpool’s organised five-man defence.
It’s not a question of making up numbers now, but they’ve got to go and impress the staff and earn the right to go and play in the team
“We spoke at half-time and throughout the game that you have to come away with something and you have to grind it out,” said Manning. “It wasn’t the prettiest of games, and perhaps a different sort of game than you’re normally used to seeing as the stereotype of Academy football.
“It was a scrap, it was a fight and it was all that and the challenge was to come away with a clean sheet, so we’re really disappointed that we didn’t come away with that and a result.
“I thought in the first half, at times, we got in some good, effective areas, particularly on the right-hand side, and nothing came of it as the quality and composure around the penalty box wasn’t good enough.
“The second half, I thought was really bitty and a bit of scrap and there wasn’t enough quality in our execution even around the free-kicks and little things like that. We said to the lads it’s got to be better and at a much higher level than that.”
West Ham were without a host of players who started regularly during the opening half of the season, with a number out on loan and others away with the first team after spending last week at a warm-weather training camp in Spain.
Those absences gave young players opportunities to shine, with right-back Ngakia, 18, and defensive midfielder Kristijan Belic, 17, showing why they were given a chance to impress at U23 level with assured displays.
“We’ve had a lot of players go out and ultimately it’s about that, about pushing them on and obviously we had a few go out to Spain with the first team last week and they’ve stayed with the first-team squad and that’s what the job’s about,” Manning continued.
“You then ask ‘Who’s next? Who’s going to step up and be counted and be the next one through?’ and I thought a few did that. I thought Jeremy did well and Kristijan came out with credit as well, so there were positives to take out of the game definitely.
“We had a chat with the lads who went away and the manager and his staff have been great in taking them, and I can’t speak highly enough of them in terms of that. It’s now down to the lads to smash their door down, force their hand and make them pick them by being what they’ve got in the squad.
“It’s not a question of making up numbers now, but they’ve got to go and impress the staff and earn the right to go and play in the team.”
Monday’s defeat left West Ham eleventh in the 12-team table with six matches left to play and Manning has challenged his team to rise to the challenge of picking up enough points to avoid relegation, starting in their next match at home to Blackburn Rovers on 4 March.
“One hundred per cent it’s about staying up and we go into every game wanting to win it,” he confirmed. “Obviously it’s about development, but the business that they’re in is going out to win. We’ve got to get results and staying in the league, so it’s great in that result that they’re playing under the pressure of needing to stay in the league.
“Sometimes when you’re mid-table, you don’t have that, so it’s good from that point of view. We’ve got six games to go and picking up the points to stay in the league is hugely important.”
West Ham United U23s: Anang, Ngakia, Pask, Alese, Barrett, Belic (Rosa 80), Lewis, Kemp, Afolayan (Chesters 64), Mesaque Dju (Longelo 70), Hector-Ingram (c)
Subs not used: Harness (GK), Hannam