Josh Cullen: I’m 24 now so it’s time to make it happen
Josh Cullen is determined to prove age is just a number as he seeks to make his first-team breakthrough at West Ham United.
The Academy of Football graduate turned 24 in April, but Cullen believes the experiences he has had and improvements he has made during a series of successful loan spells mean he is ready to perform in the Premier League.
A first-team and Premier League debutant at 19, Cullen found his path to regular football blocked by the likes of Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Pedro Obiang and Declan Rice, and opted to develop his game in the EFL, rather than play Under-23 football for the Hammers.
The youngster’s decision paid off as he starred for Bradford City, Bolton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic, often in testing circumstances, reaching two League One Play-Off finals and making nearly 150 senior appearances.
Now, he is back at West Ham and, after registering two assists for Jarrod Bowen in Saturday’s Betway Cup tie with AFC Bournemouth at London Stadium, is determined to prove to David Moyes that he has what it takes to play in the top tier.
I could have stayed around at West Ham, but I wanted to go out and get games, develop myself and improve myself and become a better player
“I’m delighted to be here,” he told West Ham TV. “Like I’ve always said all along, through all the loans, the end goal is to be at West Ham. I’m 24 now so it’s time to make it happen.
“It’s been a different pre-season, a shorter one than normal, but I’ve loved every minute of it under the gaffer. Having worked under him and his staff during his first spell here, to come back and work under him again, I’ve loved it.
“Being back in and around the lads, who I really get on well with, it’s been a pleasure, so hopefully I can stamp my mark on things now and try to be a regular feature in the squad and make as many appearances as I can.”
While some supporters may doubt Cullen’s credentials, the fact he was capped twice by Republic of Ireland during his time at Charlton shows he has the quality and the character to perform at the highest level.
“Everyone’s journey is different,” he observed. “I think sometimes people think that I’m 24, and if I was good enough I’d be playing by now, but you see teams buy players who are 25 or 26 from the Championship, so I don’t see the difference between that and me going there and getting experience and getting games.
“I could have stayed around at West Ham, but I wanted to go out and get games, develop myself and improve myself and become a better player so when I do eventually get the chance here and I’m lucky enough to break in and get some games, then I’m the best player I possibly can be here, and I’m a better player for having gone out and playing those games.
“The old saying is that ‘age is just a number’. I’m 24 now and I’m feeling as good as I ever have and I’m good to crack on.”