Terry Westley praised the hard work of Grady Diangana after the 20-year-old put pen to paper on a new five-and-a-half year contract last week.
The winger broke into West Ham United’s first team earlier this season, bursting onto the scene with two goals on his senior debut against Macclesfield Town, and has not looked back since, going on to make a further 15 appearances for the Hammers.
And having observed the creative midfielder’s progression throughout his years learning at the Academy of Football, Academy Director Westley described the youngster’s new deal as deserved.
“When you talk about contracts, it should be built upon achievements and recognition of what a player has done,” said Westley. “The wrong way round is when players knock on the door looking for a new contract, and they haven’t achieved anything yet.
“Both Declan Rice, after more than 50 Premier League appearances, and Grady Diangana have been rightly recognised and been given improved contracts.
“The owners have pulled Grady in, even though he had time on his previous contract, because he is showing that promise and has been deserving of that new deal. He still had that time on his deal, but the Club has recognised how far he’s come and has rewarded his success.”
What Grady has done this season, it hasn’t surprised me. He’s been really diligent in the work he’s done, and he's reaping the rewards.
Diangana joined the Club was he was ten-years-old and has worked his way up the levels at Chadwell Heath, learning plenty on the way while representing the Hammers at all age-groups.
And Westley is not shocked to see how successful his progression into senior football has been this campaign.
“What Grady has done this season, it hasn’t surprised me,” Westley continued. “What surprises me is when somebody says to me: ‘You were never sure about him.’
“What I would say to that is that look at his pathway so far; when he left the youth team, we offered him a professional contract. When that was out, we gave him two more years [last summer]. And that was because we knew he would show more promise.
“This is a player who has his third professional contract and he’s starting to fulfil the potential in which we saw. In his own interviews, he’s said that in his first year as a pro, he had to change from playing schoolboy football to senior football. That was about learning positions, working hard off the ball, defensively doing better and being consistent with his end product.
“He’s bringing that all together now. He’s been given things to work on, and he’s been really diligent in the work he’s done.”
Westley also believes that Diangana and Rice, along with the other fellow youngsters – Joe Powell, Conor Coventry and Xande Silva – who have made first team debuts this season, are terrific role models for the Academy’s plethora of talent.
“They are great examples for any Academy player that’s thinking: ‘I want to be around the first team, I want to get a better contract.’ They’re role models,” he explained. “Follow their example. They’ve been given work to do, they’ve done that brilliantly and they are reaping the rewards. Don’t get me wrong, there is still more for both to do, but they’re doing a great job so far.
“Grady has moved up the system from ten-years-old. It shows the other players that there is a pathway, there is a methodology in what we do, and if you follow it, that you have a chance at this Club at the moment, with a manager who is prepared to put players in the team.”