Academy Spotlight: Dan Chesters
Each week, we'll be introducing you to a promising product of the Academy of Football - in their words.
From Stevenage Blue Socks to talking U18s and U23s team-mates, meet 18-year-old midfielder, Dan Chesters...
The first team that I remember playing for was Stevenage Blue Socks. It must have been about ten years ago, so I was probably playing for their Under-8s. The team was made up of mainly my friends from school and then my Dad was the coach. I moved to West Ham after being scouted initially by Arsenal and have been at the club ever since.
My Mum and Dad have had the biggest influence on my footballing career so far. They’re the ones who have driven me everywhere, when I was younger taking me to training on Tuesdays and Thursdays - they’re very supportive.
Growing up I’ve always played in midfield. Central midfield is my favourite place to play but for the last 12 months I’ve been playing out on the wing quite a bit. It’s a different challenge for me and I’ve changed up my game to adapt to what the coaches want to see. I’m really enjoying it.
The biggest challenge that I’ve found growing up as a young footballer is the mental side. Going in every day and being resilient, trying your best, it takes it out of you. We’re at the stage of the season now where there are opportunities in the U23s for some of us younger ones. This is the time for us to make the step-up and grab those chances.
Right now, I’m really enjoying watching Kevin De Bruyne, he’s top class. I think everything about his game is brilliant: he makes powerful runs from midfield and that’s something I try and bring to my game as well, so he’s my main inspiration at the minute.
My best friend in the U18s is Peter Stroud, we spent a lot of time together off the pitch and he makes me laugh.
The hardest working member of the squad is probably Sebastian Nebyla. He’s always staying behind after training whilst everyone else is walking inside.
Lennon Peake is the most naturally gifted player amongst the U18s, I think. He’s been really good from a very young age, very technical and very direct.
The jokers in the squad are definitely Sam Caiger and Jake Giddings. They’re always making everyone laugh and playing tricks on one another - you don’t get much peace and quiet with those two.
When we are on away trips we’re always waiting for Josh Okotcha. He takes the longest to get ready by far - we’re ready to head back on the coach and he’s only just got out the shower!
FIFA, Films & Food
I tend not to play FIFA that much, believe it or not. If I had to pick a team it’d probably be PSG just because they have Neymar and Kylian Mbappé up top and that’s just pure pace. There are a lot of boys who are better than me at FIFA to be fair, I rank pretty low. Louie Watson is pretty good; he’s always putting his time into it.
Away from consoles we’ve been playing a new card game at the Academy House called Wolf. It gets us out of our rooms and round the kitchen table in the evenings. It’s a bit like Wink Murder but with cards thrown in - it’s good fun.
My favourite TV series is either Prison Break or Peaky Blinders. I really like Prison Break because some of the characters are so clever and Peaky Blinders is just really old school. I haven’t got around to watching the new series of Peaky Blinders just yet, but I will make sure I do.
Fury with Brad Pitt and Shia Labeouf is my favourite film. It’s so interesting to take a look back and see what the Second World War was like and also realise how mentally strong you had to be back then.
Music is an easy one; I really like Lil Baby because he’s so chill. Listening to him always gets me hyped before a game. Travis Scott is another one and Meek Mill. I’d say they are the main three.
My go-to cheat meal is Domino's: I normally have Double Pepperoni and, for me, you can’t really go wrong with that. I don’t tend to go to restaurants very often but Nando’s is obviously a favourite, you can’t beat it!