Dmitri Halajko: We’ve faith in our system

U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko and assistant Steve Potts

Opportunity will knock for a number of Academy of Football starlets in the near future, according to West Ham United U23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko.

The Hammers’ development squad travel to Reading U23’s Bearwood Park Training Ground on Monday afternoon, one week after arguably their finest performance of the season so far.

Manchester United were put to the sword in a clinical display at the Chigwell Construction Stadium, pulling the Irons four points clear at the top of Premier League 2 Division 2.

Halajko has consistently spoken this season of his wish to see his players test themselves at the next level, and with the loan moves of captain Conor Coventry and Nathan Holland - to League One clubs Oxford and Lincoln respectively - confirmed this week, further opportunities for progression are now set to percolate throughout the Academy of Football’s age groups.

“We’ve got depth,” Halajko said. “We want to send players out on loan and we want to give more players opportunities.

"If there’s a chance of one of our players playing league football, we won’t hold them back for the U23s - we’ll tell them to go and do it, and it’ll be on someone else to come in, take their place and do as good a job as they did. 

“We’ve got faith in our system, and whether that’s the strength in depth in the U23s, or promoting players from the U18s or even the U16s if we need to, we’ve got plenty of players at a good level that we can trust to make an impact.”

David Moyes and Dmitri Halajko talking before Gillingham v West Ham United

Such faith in the Academy’s system has paid hefty dividends so far this season, with the U23s top of their league, the U18s third in U18 Premier League South, and plenty of players kicking on to represent age groups beyond their own.

At the top of the tree, Ben Johnson, Coventry and Holland have all enjoyed first-team minutes this campaign, while U23s regulars Gonçalo Cardoso, Bernardo Rosa and Jeremy Ngakia were all named in new West Ham United manager David Moyes’ squad away at Sheffield United on Friday.

Moyes was in attendance at last week's win over Manchester United, and has also invited Halajko to assist him at several first-team fixtures in recent weeks.

“It’s been great to have the new manager try to join things up already,” Halajko confirmed.

“He was at the game last week too. I’ve been helping them out with bits and bobs when they need it, which is a great experience for me, and if they need a hand obviously I’m more than happy to help.

“Hopefully I can learn in the process and we can join up U23s as closely to the first-team as possible and make it a nice, smooth pathway for players moving in that direction.”

As for this week’s opposition, Reading U23s, managed by former Arsenal defender Scott Marshall, have enjoyed an inconsistent first-half to their Premier League 2 Division 2 campaign and currently sit ninth in the table.

The Royals showed no shortage of attacking intent in the reverse fixture in August, however, and Halajko believes another tricky away test lies in store.

“It’ll be really tough,” he warned. “We watched the Manchester United and Reading game in preparation for last week’s fixture and we actually thought that they were equals. Although they lost that game 4-1, it was actually a very, very close match, so we’ll be expecting a similar game as we had last week. 

“It’ll be really hard-fought, and we’ll have to be at our best to get anything out of it.”

Kick-off at Bearwood Park Training Ground is at 1pm on Monday 13 January; you can follow all the action through’s live blog.


West Ham United training wear