As West Ham United women’s team returned to pre-season training ahead of the 2020/21 Barclays FA Women’s Super League campaign, the Irons were joined by two new faces.
Maisy Barker and Angie Dunbar-Bonnie, both 18-years-old, were invited to their first training session with the first-team as they begin life on the dual careers pathway with West Ham United and the University of East London.
Barker and Dunbar-Bonnie were put through their paces by WSL-winning coach, and Hammers boss Matt Beard, while also given the opportunity to work alongside the likes of captain Gilly Flaherty, Scotland international Martha Thomas and new West Ham signing Maz Pacheco.
For Barker, the chance to work in the Irons first-team squad and alongside Beard for the first time was one she will never forget.
The opportunity given to us through this pathway is second to none. You can trust that the club and UEL have your best interests at heart both on and off the pitch.
“This first day of pre-season was really enjoyable,” Barker told whufc.com. “You can tell just how much the coaches want you to improve everything about your game and your position and your fitness. It was a really good first couple of days.
“Matt is an amazing coach as well. It’s different between coaches and you can tell that he takes care when it comes to every single player in terms of how he can help them improve individually. For example, he’s been giving me loads of tips on my positioning as a full-back.
“It’s very important for a player to have that and, for me personally, I think he’s going to be an amazing coach for us as young players to help us develop.”
The programme, for 16-20-year-olds, offers young footballers access to a full programme of off-field performance services support, as well as the very best preparation on the field.
Dunbar-Bonnie says she choose to utilise the dual careers pathway because the education factor and development of not just first-class footballers, but also first-class people, was of clear importance to both West Ham and the University of East London.
“The opportunity given to us through this pathway is second to none,” Dunbar-Bonnie said. “You can trust that the club, and UEL, have your best interests at heart both on and off the pitch. That’s the really important thing.
“It’s not just about the football, it’s the stuff away from it too. That inspired me to come here.”
With a first couple of sessions under their respective belts, both Barker and Dunbar-Bonnie are looking to make the most of their time with the Irons and under the guidance of both the women’s coaching team and the educational staff at UEL.
Barker said: “I’m just hoping to develop as a person and as a player and keep learning from the amazing players here. Hopefully I can prove myself to Matt and the other staff that I can be the best player I can and break into the first team.”
Dunbar-Bonnie added: “I hope to earn Matt’s trust and keep improving and getting better with every session.”