West Ham United U23s have kicked off their pre-season programme with a week-long training camp at Loughborough University.
Led by lead coach Dmitri Halajko, the young Hammers will be looking to use the camp to get up to speed ahead of a second successive campaign in Premier League 2 Division 1.
A week of hard work will culminate with the development squad’s first friendly of the season against Loughborough University FC on Saturday.
Among the players who could be involved at the weekend is midfielder Dan Chesters, who will be looking to bounce back after missing large parts of last season through injury.
We’ve got a couple of new additions to this squad this season so it’s nice to get to know them, make them feel welcome and spend some time away from east London
“It’s been a hard couple of weeks but it’s nice to be back with the lads and get back into it. I think that it’s important that you put in the work early, before you get back into the swing of things.” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of new additions to this squad this season so it’s nice to get to know them, make them feel welcome and spend some time away from east London. We’re a lively bunch and it’s been really enjoyable so far.”
Summer arrivals Thierry Nevers and Armstrong Okoflex are part of the group who have travelled to Leicestershire, and the coaches have wasted no time in putting the players through their paces.
“We’re a good group of mates so there’s obviously a fun element to it, but it’s hard work. We’re up at 7.30am every morning in the gym, coming back, preparing for training, doing double sessions, all with the aim of killing us!” Chesters laughed.
After a difficult 2020/21 season that was ultimately curtailed by injury, the 19-year-old admits he spent most days of his off-season at the training ground.
“I didn’t spend too much time off because I was still rehabbing. I spent a lot of the time at Chadwell Heath, coming in seeing the physios and working to be fit for the start of pre-season.”
With that goal now achieved - albeit with the midfielder managing his recovery - Chesters will be looking to feature during a stacked pre-season programme that features games against the likes of Southend United and Crawley Town.
Like all of the young professionals at the Academy of Football, Chesters is aiming to put some consistent performances together and make that next step into senior football.
He smiled: “I’m really excited to get back out on the pitch and show exactly what I can do. It’s been a long time since we played our last game, so I’m just buzzing to get going.
“My goal is to try and impress the coaches and spend more time around the first team this year,. I'll try and get involved in a few training sessions and see if I can make the bench before the end of the season.”