As a young footballer, opportunity can come calling in any number of circumstances – but West Ham United Under-23s debutant Kamarai Swyer was ready.
The Irons played out a tight, tactical 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers on Friday afternoon in a game which featured almost as many enforced substitutions as it did goalscoring chances.
A number of lengthy stoppages throughout the match led to there being 12 minutes of injury time in the first half and five in the second, leading to a largely cagey affair with neither side given much opportunity to build up much momentum.
West Ham were forced to withdraw Ajibola Alese early on in the first half, but it was shortly before half-time that Ossama Ashley was also forced to leave the pitch – and Swyer was handed his debut at U23s and Premier League 2 level.
Playing out on the right wing, the 17-year-old was involved almost immediately, collecting a pass just inside the area and firing a fierce shot goalwards which Blackburn did well to block.
He also made several threatening runs in behind and came close to scoring in the second half, playing a neat one-two with Sean Adarkwa before seeing his low finish blocked by the outstretched boot of Blackburn goalkeeper Antonis Stergiakis.
Discussing his U23s debut, Swyer said: “It was good. It was different – it was just much more intense and the whole game just moved much quicker than I was used to. You had to just be on it – I really enjoyed the experience.
“You know, as a substitute, you have to be ready because anyone can get injured at any point. I just made sure I was ready to go if I was needed so that I could do my best when my chance came.
“I think I did well and coped with it well. Hopefully I get more chances to show what I can offer over the rest of the season.”
Other than for a handful of chances, the Hammers’ first clean sheet of the Premier League 2 season, and Swyer’s landmark appearance, the game itself is unlikely to live long in the memory for either side.
Nevertheless, Swyer and his teammates proved their defensive solidity against a Blackburn side who would have gone top of the table with a win in east London.
The next step for the young Hammers, according to the teenager, is to add that cutting edge necessary to transform one point into three more consistently.
“We had a couple of chances, but I’d say it was quite a neutral game,” Swyer admitted. “It was rare to see a 0-0 at this level.
“I think it slowed down the momentum of the game a bit when play kept starting and stopping, but it happens sometimes – we just needed to focus on the game.
“I think we can be optimistic. We’ve shown that we can be tight at the back and keep clean sheets – it’s just about taking our chances now.”