Academy of Football youngster Levi Laing has signed his first professional contract with West Ham United.
The teenage defender started representing the Club in January, initially arriving on trial with Kevin Keen’s U18s before later signing Scholarship terms in east London.
Laing’s immediate impact at the Academy – the 18-year-old has since made 13 appearances for the youth team and two for the U23s – has been rewarded with a first professional contract with the Club until the summer of 2023, with the option for an additional year.
Primarily a centre-back, but also comfortable as a full-back or defensive midfielder, Laing is excited to build on a promising opening chapter to life in east London when the new season commences.
I’ve loved every minute of it since coming to West Ham, and I can’t wait to keep going and keep working hard for them
“I feel overjoyed at the moment,” Laing told West Ham TV. “Words can’t describe how I’m feeling.
“My family and I can’t stop smiling. It’s been a long time coming, but now I’ve finally signed my first professional contract, I’m overjoyed and proud of myself for achieving it.
“I’d like to thank everyone at West Ham for bringing me in with open arms, my Dad for all the long trips he made for football – they’ve paid off, thankfully! – and my Mum for keeping me grounded, keeping my head down with both education and football, and my extended family as well.
“I’ve loved every minute of it since coming to West Ham, and I can’t wait to keep going and keep working hard for them.
“This Club is so family-orientated. I love how everyone’s playing in competition [for places], but also brings friendship. I’ve built a good friendship here with a lot of people, and I’ve loved every minute of it, so that’s the main thing.
“I’m proud of myself for coming this far in my footballing career – but it’s only the start, so let’s not dwell on this, let’s just continue to work hard in the future.”
U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko said of Laing’s signing: “Levi came in last season and made an immediate impact at the Academy.
“After coming in from Arsenal, he fitted in straight away. He hit the ground running with good performances, got himself in and around the U23s group and made a few substitute appearances fairly early at that level.
“The progress that he’s made in such a short period of time has been really positive, and I’m sure he can carry it on going forward at this Club.”
Originally from Kingston in South-West London, Laing’s first-ever football club as a child was local team Hampton & Richmond Borough FC.
The defender’s academy career subsequently began as a 12-year-old with Brentford, where he spent two seasons prior to a five-year stint at Arsenal.
An uncompromising defender possessing good athleticism and technical ability, Laing admits to appreciating both of the sides of the defender’s game, hoping to showcase his abilities as fully-fledged professional footballer moving forward.
Laing explained: “I’m a defender first and foremost. I like to defend, and I enjoy doing my one v one defending, making tackles…
“I love that part of the game, but I can also play a bit! I like playing in multiple positions as well.
“Now that I’m in U23s football, I’ll continue to work hard and see what my coaches say. I’ll just keep my head down, do what I need to do on the pitch and show my ability there.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m loving the new challenge.”