Ben Johnson continued a great season for the Academy by making his West Ham United debut in Wednesday night’s Premier League clash at Manchester City.
The 19-year-old defender played over an hour in the narrow 1-0 defeat to the title-chasers, adding his name to the list of Academy graduates to feature in the first team this season.
With Mark Noble and Declan Rice regulars in the side, the club have also been able to call upon homegrown talent this term in the form of Grady Diangana, Conor Coventry, Joe Powell and now Johnson.
Having been at the club since the age of seven, Johnson is proud to make that step up and wants to ensure his Etihad Stadium runout was the first of many in Claret and Blue.
“It felt great to make my debut,” he said. “I’m disappointed that we lost, but I felt like I deserved to be out there. I’ve been playing well so hopefully there’s more to come.
“I was on the bench for the game at Manchester City last season, but this season I felt I was ready to play and the Gaffer told me I would the day before. He said ‘don’t worry, just enjoy’.
The Academy of Football is alive and well. We’ve got some great young talent coming up so I’m looking forward to the future
“I thought I did OK. There were a couple of times when I needed to get out to the ball more, but it’s a learning curve. They’re the best players in the world so playing against them is a great experience and I can take so much from it.
“It was much quicker than U23s football, the intensity was unbelievable. You have to keep checking, keep focused, keep talking to Angelo and it was a great learning experience.
“I always believed [I would get to this point], but it’s just surreal now. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, but being here from seven to getting here now is great.
“There’s so many people along the way [who have played a role]. Jimmy Hampsheir, Ian Yuill, Mark Phillips putting me as a defender, Steve Potts, Liam Manning for just enhancing my development and Terry Westley for giving my first pro deal. There’s loads of people that have been influential in my life and career.
“The Academy of Football is alive and well. We’ve got some great young talent coming up so I’m looking forward to the future."