Cottee: West Ham’s youngsters point to a bright future

As a graduate of the famed Academy of Football himself, Tony Cottee is well-placed to be excited by the club’s current crop of youngsters.

With Declan Rice and Grady Diangana having graduated from the Academy of Football to make in excess of 60 first team appearances between them last term, added to a core of players set to come into their prime who joined last summer, the Hammers’ squad is in a good position to push on.

Pablo Fornals was Manuel Pellegrini’s first outfield signing this summer, and at 23, the Spaniard fits that model of a player who could fulfil his potential at London Stadium.

Having seen Issa Diop and Felipe Anderson thrive in their debut campaigns with the Hammers, Cottee believes the blend of the squad will be spot on. 

“There are good young players at the club,” the legendary former Hammers striker said. “You want to get the average age down, that’s always an aim for any football club to keep the average age, if you can, at 26-27. 

Tony Cottee with fellow Academy graduates Trevor Brooking, Declan Rice and Alvin Martin

“You can’t have a team of youngsters because that makes it very difficult. You don’t want a team of old players because everyone says ‘they can’t run any more, they can still play but they can’t run’.  You’ve got to get the balance right and the club is doing the right thing, trying to sign young players.

“Yes, sometimes you have to pay a premium for those young players, but it’s exciting times for the football club. I think every West Ham fan, like myself, will all be enjoying the summer and looking forward to the first game and hopefully getting off to a good start to the season.”

The Hammers will face champions Manchester City in that opening fixture – a week after Athletic Bilbao visit London Stadium for the Betway Cup – and Cottee isn’t discounting the Hammers from being able to spring a first day surprise.

He added: “What I will say is that it’s a good time to play Man City because you all start on the same level. Once the season gets going and they’re in full stride, we know how good they are, but we’re going to play them on the first game of the season and we’ll be in exactly the same position at them fitness wise and I think that’ll give us just a sneaky chance.”

Tickets for the Athletic Bilbao clash on Saturday 3 August are now on General Sale with prices starting at just £2 kids and £10 adults. Click here to buy now.