Will Greenidge: All I wanted was to get back out there

West Ham United U23s defender Will Greenidge was pleased to finally put his injury troubles this season to bed as he returned against Manchester City U23s on Friday afternoon.

The 18-year-old fullback last played for the development squad on 10 November 2020, and has since been absent with a series of recurring injury problems.

But Greenidge, last season’s Dylan Tombides Award winner for his consistent excellence as a scholar, made his reappearance in Claret and Blue when he came on at half-time in the eventual 1-0 loss to newly crowned Premier League 2 champions City.

Capable of filling in on either side, Greenidge replaced Emmanuel Longelo on the left at half-time and was tasked with keeping one of City’s top scorers, Cole Palmer, quiet – a task he largely fulfilled with aplomb.

West Ham’s U23s had their chances in the game and, on another day, could have got something from it, but in the end could find no answer to Felix Nmecha’s seventh-minute penalty for the runaway league winners.

We wanted to go for it and I think we did that today, and we definitely could have come away with something

Will Greenidge

But Greenidge believes the nature of the display demonstrated that West Ham’s U23s warrant a place in the top division of Premier League 2 next season – a status they now have two final league games, back-to-back fixtures against Arsenal, to retain.

“It’s been five months and all I’ve wanted is just to get back out there,” Greenidge told whufc.com.

“It’s the best feeling really, doing what I love, and against a great team in Manchester City, there’s no bigger challenge, so I really enjoyed being back.

“I’m happy with what I did. It was a difficult game in that, on my side, they overloaded – two vs one – every time, so it was about judging when to go and press and when to just sit off. I think I did well and everyone that played put in their all. 

“To come away losing 1-0, and to have the chances we had and for their goal to be a penalty, we know we definitely could have come away with something, so we’ve got to be proud of what we did today.

“We set out to give it to them. We didn’t want to go into the game and feel inferior to them. We wanted to go for it and I think we did that today, and we definitely could have come away with something. 

“[Lead coach] Dmitri [Halajko] and [assistant] Steve [Potts] wanted us to be brave and be aggressive, and really get in City’s face, and towards the end, when we were pressing them, they looked like they were a bit nervous. It shows that we can do it against the best.”

Whilst Greenidge admitted he was disappointed to have missed the vast majority of his first season as a professional footballer – having put pen-to-paper last summer – the 18-year-old has a thoughtful outlook on his recovery process.

He explained: “I’ve had a few injuries before, but five months was tough, especially when I came back into training and then had to drop back out again. It’s been frustrating, not really feeling a hundred per cent. 

“You’ve always got to look at the positives, though. I’ve been able to get in the gym and build myself up. I feel stronger, I’m getting new personal bests in everything, and I think I’m ready now to get back on the pitch. 

“I’m ready for the next step and feeling good in myself now, and that’s the main thing.”

Greenidge now hopes to play his part in the young Hammers’ final two league games of the season – crucial fixtures against Arsenal which will determine their top-flight status in Premier League 2.

The young Hammers go into the games knowing that only goal difference separates themselves and Leicester City U23s just above the relegation zone – and so every point gained against Arsenal will be crucial.

Greenidge concluded: “They’re two massive games. We’ll definitely go to get six points from the two. 

“Everyone’s in there, feeling like we gave it our all today. We definitely stood up to the challenge and we faced them head on. On a different day, we could’ve come away with a point, maybe even a win. 

“We’ve always been confident in ourselves, but watching the results in the last few weeks, we’ve been in-form and I think we’ve just really got into a good system, a good stride. 

“Next season, if we do stay up, we can definitely stay in this division, compete against all these teams and give them a right good game.

“I’d just like to play as much as I can and finish the season strong. I’d like to just come away ready for the break and then get back in pre-season ready to go again. We’ll just keep pushing and see how well we can do.”

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