Ossama Ashley is raring to go during West Ham United U23s’ first pre-season friendly on Saturday afternoon.
Having undergone a rigorous week-long training camp at Loughborough University, the stay will culminate in their first pre-season friendly, in which they will take on their hosts – a United Counties League outfit – kicking off at 12pm.
For 21-year-old Ashley, the fixture could mark his first appearance – albeit non-competitively – since early March, having suffered several disruptive injuries during his first season at the Academy of Football.
The tough-tackling player has been putting in the hard graft during his off-season in a bid to recapture full sharpness as soon as possible, and is hoping to demonstrate the benefit of that work during the U23s’ opening game.
“I’ve been running for weeks for it!” Ashley told whufc.com. “It’s going to be a good tester to see where we are in terms of fitness, and the coaches will see that, but we’re all looking forward to it.
“It was a tough last season for me with my injuries. It was difficult and it affected me a lot. I always found myself battling, but I feel that negatives happen in football – so you can only really look forward and plan ahead.
“I’ve really taken myself away during the off-season and worked hard on myself, bettered myself and become even stronger. Now, I feel great. I’ve had a strong start to pre-season and I’m looking forward to it.
“Hopefully, in the first game on Saturday, I’ll be able to show that, show the coaches what I can do, and do them proud.”
Despite his injury battles, Ashley was still able to make 12 appearances for the Hammers’ development squad last season, having signed over the summer at the end of a successful trial period.
As a result, Ashley is feeling settled, motivated – and above all determined – ahead of his second season with the young Irons, as they look to build on securing safety in Premier League 2 Division 1 last season.
I love the lads here. They’re all talkative, there are no egos, and the Club and squad feels family-orientated
He added: “I love the lads here. They’re all talkative, there are no egos, and the Club and squad feels family-orientated. These lads are quality and it shows on the pitch when we work together.
“For myself, I want to contribute more to the side, with goals and assists, but as a team, we all feel like we had a poor season last season results-wise.
“We didn’t get the results we wanted, so our main goal – my main goal – is to help the team do the best that I can, give everything out on the pitch, and hopefully finish much higher up in the table this season.”
West Ham United U23s take on Loughborough University on Saturday 10 July in a behind-closed-doors friendly. You will be able to find a match report and full reaction on whufc.com on Saturday afternoon.