Frederik Alves: Helping West Ham U23s means everything
West Ham United defender Frederik Alves feels that he is acclimatising to the rigours of English football through his involvement with the U23s team.
The Denmark U21 international, who joined the Club from Danish side Silkeborg in January, has played a pivotal role in the development squad’s fightback from the bottom of the Premier League 2 Division 1 table.
The imposing 21-year-old has successfully transferred his experience from Denmark’s top-flight into dominant performances at the heart of the Hammers' backline in the upper tier of English development football.
Alves has not only made nine appearances for the U23s since January, producing consistently steady performances during their recent good run of form, but has also been named in eleven first-team matchday squads this season.
During that time, the U23s have gone unbeaten in their last five Premier League 2 Division 1 matches, winning three of those games ahead of the visit of newly-crowned champions Manchester City U23s to East London on Friday afternoon.
While the move from Silkeborg to London has posed challenges for the young defender, the Alves admits that he has enjoyed gaining experience of English football through regular U23s action – and the natural development that comes with it – while training with the first team.
“It’s very important we, as an U23s team, stay up in Division 1,” Alves told whufc.com. “It’s always important to do that. It’s the worst feeling to go down, so helping this team is everything.
“I’ve learnt a lot in these last few months. I've learned that English football is based on a lot of physical duels and also has a really fast pace as well.
"There are lots of channel balls played to defend against. I think I’m learning quickly about English football and I really like it.
“I’m trying to take every piece of information in and just trying to learn every day, every single day just getting better and better, learning from the top guys in our first team.”
The centre-back was yet again an impressive performer in the U23s’ latest victory, a 2-1 win over Everton U23s at Rush Green Stadium on Monday.
That result took the Hammers four points clear of bottom-of-the-table Southampton U23s in Premier League 2 Division 1, albeit still in the relegation places courtesy of an inferior goal difference to Leicester City U23s.
Alves admitted that, having limited Everton to only a handful of chances on Monday – seeing only a penalty kick converted by Josh Bowman in the eleventh minute – the performance represented a pleasing one for him and his teammates in their quest to maintain their top-tier status.
He explained: “It felt good to win on Monday. At the start of the game we conceded a goal, but at the end, it’s always the result that counts, so I was very happy to get the three points.
“We are getting on as a group and we are further away from the bottom of the table than when I joined, which is good.
“We didn’t concede many chances against Everton, especially in the second half. We had a lot of ball possession and it felt very good for me to partner with Fabian [Balbuena] at the back.
“We were solid and just kept the ball rolling. That’s what you need to do: keep the ball moving, and then your chances will come. We had the chances and managed to score two goals, so I’m happy.”
As for life in England, three months on from joining, Alves admitted that his adaptation had – due to the global pandemic – proved challenging for him and his loved ones, but that he was relishing the prospect of properly exploring his new home city in the future.
He smiled: “Me and my girlfriend have been settling in. It’s been really hard for my girlfriend because she’s home all time, and the only person she’s been seeing is me!
“It’s been a strange time to move to England and it’s been very hard for her, but we’re getting on and now that society’s opening up more, life’s becoming easier here in England.”
West Ham United U23s take on Manchester City U23s on Friday 23 April in a behind-closed-doors fixture. Kick-off is at 4pm; you can follow all the action with our live blog on whufc.com from 3.30pm.
Please note that Academy fixtures will be played behind closed doors until further notice. Only key personnel will be admitted on site and the match will be played without supporters present, in line with safety guidelines and social distancing measures in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.