For any 19-year-old, the prospect of playing in front of 60,000 supporters in a competition which represents the pinnacle of English professional football must seem daunting.
Not so for Jeremy Ngakia.
The Deptford-born right-back, who missed much of the first half of the season with injury but subsequently impressed with the U23s upon his return in December, can now count three West Ham United first-team and Premier League appearances to his name.
After putting in a solid performance against Liverpool at London Stadium on his full debut in January, it was his mature display in the return fixture at Anfield which really caught the eye, prior to him starting Saturday afternoon’s 3-1 win over Southampton.
I just want to thank the fans because without them I wouldn’t have the energy they’re giving me, so it’s amazing. Keep it up – please!
Speaking after the match, Ngakia admitted that the first senior win of his career, cheered on by the resounding London Stadium supporters, was part of a team performance he will never forget. And that it came in front of the Claret and Blue Army was all the better!
“That felt amazing,” Ngakia told West Ham TV. “I’m happy for the team and happy for the fans. It’s a great feeling, unbelievable – I just want to keep this up.
“I feel the fans’ love. It just gives me the energy, more energy on the pitch, it’s amazing.”
With typical humility, he added: “I just want to thank the fans because without them I wouldn’t have the energy they’re giving me, so it’s amazing. Keep it up – please!”
The Hammers went into Saturday afternoon’s game following a difficult run of results, but produced a confident display to defy their recent form.
Despite Southampton’s Michael Obafemi cancelling out Jarrod Bowen’s 15th-minute opener, Ngakia and West Ham continued to play confidently and create chances, taking the lead once more before half-time through Sebastien Haller.
Everyone wanted to get forward but at the same time you need to work well defensively for the team, and I thought the back four especially were solid
Michail Antonio’s strike added a degree of comfort to the score-line early in the second half, ratified by some stout defending from the home side, and Ngakia was afterwards full of praise for the Hammers’ all-round display.
“Everyone wanted to get forward but at the same time you need to work well defensively for the team, and I thought the back four especially were solid,” he observed. “We’ve just got to keep it up and get more points on board.
“Sometimes the front three have got into good positions but it doesn’t go our way, but today went our way, so I’m happy for them as well.”
As for his future, Ngakia once again spoke with maturity, citing his desire to play as many games in Claret and Blue as he can – but aware that this will only happen if he continues to put the hard yards in during training.
“I’ve just got to keep building on what I’ve been doing,” he explained. “Obviously I’ve played three games and I want more, so I’ve got to keep trying my best to stay in the team, keep it up and work hard for the team.
“I’ve just got to keep trying to make it hard for the manager not to pick me, and just keep it up, because the hard work’s paying off and I’ve got to keep going, more and more.”