Anouk Denton: It was amazing to make my debut
Saturday was a day that featured countless positives for West Ham United Women – a 5-0 win against Reading was their first of the calendar year, which also yielded a well-deserved clean sheet.
The win moved the Hammers off the bottom of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table, by no means out of the woods just yet – but a strong step in the right direction for Olli Harder’s side.
One of those positives was Anouk Denton, the 17-year-old made her West Ham United debut in the win, coming on at the end of the match and not looking out of place amongst her much-experienced team-mates.
Denton came through the Arsenal academy and linked up with the Hammers in the middle of March. The youngster had already made her WSL debut for Arsenal, coming on against rivals Tottenham Hotspur in October, but she was pleased to be back out on the pitch, this time in Claret and Blue.
“It was an amazing feeling to be out on the pitch making my debut for West Ham United. I feel as though I’ve been training really hard to try and push closer to the starting XI, so I’m delighted that I was able to get on the pitch for the final couple of minutes.
“My team-mates have been so supportive of me during training, and I think that helped me relax when I stepped onto the pitch.
“It’s a great result for us, one that we need. Hopefully that takes a little bit of pressure of the team and allows us to continue to play like we have done today.
The defender came on in the closing stages for Kate Longhurst and showed some nice touches and footwork in her five-minute cameo at the Madejski Stadium.
“I felt confident coming on, which I guess is down to the fact we were already 5-0 up. The girls played so well out there throughout the match, and it was so nice to be able to get out there from a personal perspective.
“It’s a little better than my debut in the WSL for Arsenal, I actually touched the ball this time!”
It can sometimes be challenging to move to a new club at such a young age, but Denton, who began her career in the St Albans youth setup before joining the Gunners has been welcomed with open arms by everybody at West Ham United.
“Everyone here has been so welcoming, all of the girls, the staff and people at the club have really made me so special since I arrived. It’s a great challenge for me to be in a first-team environment at such a young age and I feel as though I’ve made really positive steps in my development.
“I’m going to really knuckle down and keep working hard in training to make sure that I continue to get minutes out there on the pitch,” she added.
Manager Olli Harder was also full of praise for the 17-year-old after her Hammers debut.
“I thought Anouk was brilliant and handled herself really well. She had a couple of moments where someone of her age might have panicked with the ball, but she was calm and looked good.
“Part of our ethos at West Ham is to look after these players that are coming into us. Anouk is a young player that joined us a month ago and I think it’s important to give young players a chance to get on the pitch and feel what it’s like to be involved in a professional football match.
“It’s important for us to encourage those young players and Anouk stood out in those five or so minutes and didn’t look out of place. If she continues to work hard then hopefully those first minutes will turn into more as she progresses,” he said.