Ricky Martin: Conclusion of Academy season gives us clarity
West Ham United Academy Manager Ricky Martin believes the curtailment of the 2019/20 Academy Games Programme offers much-needed clarity for the future.
A statement issued by the Premier League on Friday 1 May announced that, in a unanimous agreement by Shareholders, Under-23 and Under-18 competitions would not be resuming this season, with the campaign’s outcomes to be determined at a future date.
The curtailment also includes all Under-9 to Under-16 games, meaning the Academy has effectively now concluded its 2019/20 season.
Martin said: “We fully respect that we are in unprecedented times at the moment. The Club, as one of the shareholders, fully support what the Premier League have done. We will only return back to our normal daily work at Chadwell Heath when it is safe to do so.
“I think we needed this decision to be made; we needed this clarity for players and staff. We can now say that the season has come to an end, and we can now look forward to planning to come back, ready for the next pre-season period.
“It also gives us a time to reflect on what we did complete this season up until March: we’re very proud that our Under-23s were top of their league [Premier League 2 Division 2], and our Under-18s were second [in U18 Premier League South], when football was suspended.”
As developments surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continue to change, Martin and Academy staff will ensure they follow best practice in their planning to ensure the safety of all their charges.
He explained: “There’s lots of guidance and information coming out from the government and also from the Premier League.
“Like any football club, we’ll take on board that guidance and information and do everything we can to return, most importantly for our players, for our staff and for our community, safely.”
I’m sure that everyone will remain safe and healthy, ready to return to football when the time is right
With end-of-season traditionally the period in which Academy players’ futures are evaluated and resolved, Martin confirmed that, in this respect, this process will run normally.
He said: “Fortunately enough, we had most of our meetings with our PDP [Under-18 and Under-23] players prior to the suspension, but we will continue to work with our players to support them over this period.
“I’m sure that everyone will remain safe and healthy, ready to return to football when the time is right.”
Reflecting on the 2019/20 season, which saw his side go unbeaten in Premier League 2 Division 2, Under-23s Lead Coach Dmitri Halajko said: “It’s good for everybody involved to get some clarity on where everything stands.
“There’s a small bit of disappointment, because obviously the players want to continue the season, but we totally understand the situation and support the decision. We now have time to reflect: if this is the end of the season, what a good season it’s been.”
Under-18s Lead Coach Kevin Keen added: “For the Club to sit second in the U18s’ league is a fantastic achievement by this year’s group, so straight away, as the next group comes in, they’ve got that as a target – finishing minimum second!
“We also went through the league season unbeaten at Little Heath, which I think is really impressive, and a fantastic achievement from the squad and the coaches.”