Dmitri Halajko: We’re where we want to be

Dmitri Halajko

Two months into the job as West Ham United U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko, and his side remain unbeaten.

After 15 games in all competitions – a total that includes six pre-season friendlies – Halajko and his young charges have yet to taste defeat, winning eleven matches in that time and drawing just four.

In this instance, the numbers really do speak for themselves as the Hammers sit three points clear at the top of Premier League 2 Division 2, having also collected maximum points in both of their and Premier League International Cup opening fixtures.

The side has also seen Ben Johnson, Conor Coventry and – most recently – Nathan Holland promoted to first-team squads in the Carabao Cup, and Halajko can have few complaints about his squad’s progress ahead of the visit of Sunderland to the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

“We’re where we want to be,” he observed, in typically measured fashion.

“The players’ performances play an important role in us judging our progress; we’re a development team so we want to develop, improve and win, and so far we’ve managed to do all of that. 

“That’s a quarter of the side’s league fixtures gone – twenty five per cent of the league campaign. There’s still a long way for us all to go, but that first period we’re happy with.”

West Ham U23s celebrate


I think they'll be doing their hardest to turn around their recent form. It's always a really dangerous thing.

Dmitri Halajko

The Hammers go into the fixture with a three-point advantage at the top of the league, after nearest challengers Manchester United fell to a 4-1 defeat at Aston Villa on Monday evening.

Sunderland, meanwhile, have endured a tough start to their Premier League 2 Division 2 campaign, collecting just a single point so far as they sit bottom of the table. The side are managed by the long-serving academy coach Elliott Dickman, who has been with the Black Cats for over 20 years.

Despite their rocky start, Sunderland were arguably unlucky to slip to a 1-0 defeat against Swansea last weekend, and Halajko has warned that this may make them particularly unpredictable opposition this time around.

“I think they’ll be doing their hardest to turn around their recent form,” he said. “It’s always a really dangerous thing, because that could turn at any point. 

“We’ll treat them like we do every team. We’ll want to try and control the game, and we’ll want to get into a position where we’re in charge of the game.”

After the trip to the North-East marked five competitive fixtures in the space of just 20 days in September, Halajko is relieved that he and his coaching staff will have had more time – nine days since the Middlesbrough match – to prepare for the opposition.

He said: “We’ve had a bit of time off so Steve Potts will have got together the opposition game plan, which he’s excellent at. 

“So far every game the season he’s put together what the opposition do, how they play, how he’s spotted we can stop them, and every game he’s got it spot on so far.”

After the visit of Sunderland, West Ham resume Trophy duties when they travel to Whaddon Road to take on Cheltenham Town on Tuesday 8 October. Kick-off is scheduled for 7.45pm.

Training wear