Dmitri Halajko: West Ham's Under-23s are evolving as a team

West Ham United U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko

West Ham United U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko is looking forward to seeing his young charges rise to the challenge before them.

The Hammers’ development squad travel to Sunderland’s Academy of Light this weekend and could open up a two-point lead at the top of Premier League 2 Division 2 with six league games left to play should they win.

This season, a number of Academy of Football graduates have impressed sufficiently to earn themselves involvement in first-team match squads, including 19-year-old Jeremy Ngakia, who made a full Premier League debut against Liverpool on Wednesday.

Fellow U23s regulars Gonçalo Cardoso and Bernardo Rosa have also been named amongst manager David Moyes’ substitutes in recent weeks, while the likes of Nathan Holland, Conor Coventry and Dan Kemp have departed on loan this month to further their development in the Football League.

Such progression lies at the core of the Academy’s goals, and Halajko is excited by the prospect of seeing more youngsters step into their place and make their mark on the U23s squad.

“We’re up to speed and evolving as a team,” Halajko commented.

“Everybody’s been working to get our standards right back up there, make sure we continue pushing on, developing and improving, and hopefully we’ll put in another good performance against Sunderland this weekend.”

The Hammers travel to the North East having dropped points for only the third time this season during their last league game, a 3-3 draw away at Reading U23s a fortnight ago.

We need to maximise every minute, because every minute is an opportunity, every game is an opportunity

Dmitri Halajko

Despite twice taking the lead during the second half of that game, Halajko’s players were unable to capitalise on a strong second-half showing and were ultimately pegged back shortly before the final whistle.

Although Sunday’s opponents have enjoyed a difficult Premier League 2 Division 2 season thus far – Sunderland have yet to win in 15 games, losing 14 times – the U23s Lead Coach believes the U23s will need to show that lessons have been learned from their last game.

“I think individually we’ve learned that we can’t waste any opportunity in terms of having a bad spell in the game,” Halajko observed.

“We need to maximise every minute, because every minute is an opportunity, every game is an opportunity. That’s both for them in terms of their league position, but also their development and where they’re going and improving. 

“We need to make sure they keep those levels high all of the time, and then be slightly better in the penalty boxes. Reading only had three chances really and scored three goals, while we probably had five or six chances in open play and didn’t manage to convert any of them, so we’ll need better quality in the penalty boxes moving forward.”

West Ham U23s’ game against Sunderland kicks off at 12noon on Sunday 2 February; you can follow all the action through our live blog on


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