Seven of West Ham United’s Academy scholars have opened exciting new chapters in their careers after signing their first professional contracts with the Club.
Putting pen to paper on their new deals this week are midfielder Keenan Appiah-Forson; defender Harrison Ashby; defender Sam Caiger; midfielder Dan Chesters; defender Will Greenidge; goalkeeper Daniel Jinadu; and defender and regular Under-18s captain, Joshua Okotcha.
The young Hammers have all enjoyed strong campaigns for the U18s in 2019/20, helping Kevin Keen’s side finish second in U18 Premier League South, prior to the season’s early conclusion.
Additionally, each of the seven Scholars have made regular appearances in U23s matchday squads, accumulating 27 appearances between them for Dmitri Halajko’s league-leading side.
On the international stage, full-back Ashby made his first four appearances for Scotland’s U19s side, while shot-stopper Jinadu completed three games for Nigeria U17s at the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup.
The seven youngsters will now look forward to furthering their development at the Academy of Football, once training resumes at Chadwell Heath in due and safe course.
U18s Lead Coach Keen offered his own assessment on the seven new professionals:
“Keenan Appiah-Forson is a fantastic talent. He’s a tenacious, hard-working holding midfielder, and a real team player.
“Harrison Ashby is a really talented Scottish youth international, who also played quite a few games for the U23s this season. Mainly at right-back, he’s very attack-minded and athletic, and scored a fantastic goal in our last U18s game of the season. He’s a really good prospect.
“Sam Caiger has had to work incredibly hard this year to earn his contract. He spent more or less the whole of the first year of his scholarship recovering from injury but got himself back to fitness to gradually become one of the first names on the team-sheet. He’s a full-back, can play on the right or left, likes to attack, and reads the game really well. He’s got a really bright future ahead of him.
“Dan Chesters is the type of player that West Ham fans associate with the Club. He’s a very creative, quick, attacking midfield player, but also has the ability to be tenacious and win the ball back for the team. He’s one to look out for.
“Will Greenidge played all but one game in the youth team last year. He was probably our most consistent performer throughout the season, playing at right-back and left-back. He gets up and down the pitch and is a very steady presence.
“Daniel Jinadu has spent a lot of time training with the U23s this season. He came in and played five U18s games in goal, including saving a penalty against Aston Villa in December. He’s a very consistent, hard-working and intelligent goalkeeper.
“Joshua Okotcha was the U18s captain last year. He’s someone who is always extremely conscientious of working on his game and getting better. He’s a good, big, strong central defender, and I look forward to seeing how far he can progress in the future.”
On the announcement, Academy Manager Ricky Martin said: “This is a tremendous achievement. All our young players aspire to be offered a professional contract, and these players have all deservedly been rewarded for their efforts and development to date.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kevin Keen, Mark Phillips and Billy Lepine, the three coaches for the U18s who have worked with these players all season and given them all the support and guidance they’ve required.
“These players are still progressing, and fully deserve the opportunity to move into the next stage of their development with the U23s squad. They have shown resilience, determination and dedication so far, so as long as they keep those traits up, they will give themselves every opportunity to progress further in the future.”