Cottee hoping to see young Hammers get another FA Cup chance
Tony Cottee is hoping to see one or two Academy of Football graduates given another opportunity to shine in Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup fourth-round tie at AFC Wimbledon.
The West Ham United legend, who made his own debut in the world’s most-famous knockout competition at Manchester United at 17 in January 1983, was excited to see the likes of Declan Rice, Xande Silva and Grady Diangana play their part in the Irons’ third-round win over Birmingham City.
And Cottee believes Manuel Pellegrini may hand the talented trio further chances to make their mark on the FA Cup at Kingsmeadow.
“Much has been said and written in the past few weeks about the FA Cup and the approach that certain Premier League clubs took in the third round,” Cottee began. “All I can say is that I am immensely proud of West Ham United’s involvement in the competition so far.
“To see us battle past a confident and in-form Birmingham City team, in front of a crowd of nearly 55,000, showed just how much the famous old trophy means to us as a football club.
“It was fantastic to see so many young supporters at the game – some of whom will have been attending their first match. The ‘Kids for a Quid’ initiative is a wonderful idea that we can be rightfully proud of – it gives the next generation of supporters a chance to watch the team, and last weekend they saw some of our top players put in a good performance to seal a fourth-round place.
“The history and evidence is there – teams that make nine or ten changes to their starting line-up for cup fixtures generally find themselves on the end of a disappointing result.
“It’s difficult for a group of players who haven’t been playing together regularly to get thrown in at the deep end and be expected to perform with cohesion and understanding, whoever the opponents are.
“The wiser approach is to mix a blend of senior, regular first team stars with some younger fringe players who deserve an opportunity to get some minutes under their belt and that is exactly what Manuel Pellegrini did.
“It was pleasing to see Xande Silva handed his first start for the club, having impressed for the Under-23s, but the key was that Xande got his chance alongside the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Andy Carroll, Pedro Obiang and Declan Rice – who will have given him great support and encouraged him to play with confidence.
“That, to me, is what the FA Cup now is all about in the early stages, treating it with respect by fielding a strong team but giving one or two youngsters the chance to shine.”
West Ham’s trip to face a Dons team managed by former Hammers coach Wally Downes will be broadcast live in the UK by BT Sport 2, with kick-off on Saturday at 7.45pm.