Emmanuel Longelo: Practice made perfect with free-kick brace

West Ham United U23s defender Emmanuel Longelo had already signalled his intent for Friday afternoon’s pre-season fixture against Birmingham City U23s during the warm-up.

The left-back was one of the last players to return to the dressing room prior to kick-off, taking a few extra moments to practise finding the height, whip and power required to plant a set-piece into the top corner of the net.

That practice paid off.

Six minutes into the match, after a late challenge on Kamarai Swyer, 20-year-old Longelo stepped up to the mark. Whipping the ball goalwards from 25 yards, the left-back bent a glorious, arcing effort over the wall and into the far corner – a top-drawer strike.

20 minutes later, when Swyer was fouled again near the corner of the area, lightning struck twice, Longelo whipping the ball inside the near post with precision to double his team’s lead.

The young Hammers went on to win the game 3-0, Bernardo Rosa later adding to the score, but for Longelo, the fixture marked his first goal in Claret and Blue since last pre-season, in which he drilled in a strike against Queens Park Rangers.

They say practice makes perfect, so I stuck at it with my free-kicks. I kept working in and out of training so that when the time came, it paid off

Emmanuel Longelo

“It’s a great feeling,” Longelo told whufc.com. “I’ve been wanting to score for a long time. 

“I didn’t manage to get a competitive goal last season, so hopefully I get more this season.

“They say practice makes perfect, so I stuck at it with my free-kicks. I kept working in and out of training so that when the time came, it paid off. I got two goals today and can be happy with that.

“I practise a lot really in training, and then when the session’s done, I’ll grab some mannequins and I’ll do a bit more with some lads, or I’ll do a bit at home – I’ll find a bit of grass and a goal and just practise.”

The U23s were dominant in their win over last season’s Professional Development League champions Birmingham, with Longelo happy with the pre-season progress the result indicated.

He continued: “We’ve just been preparing for the season and in training we look very sharp and very composed. 

“Our passing’s accurate and our movement’s fluid, so being dominant on the ball is something we’ve been working on for a long time going into the season, and hopefully that’ll continue once the season begins.

“We got back into pre-season training early to get our fitness up and I feel like everyone’s been fighting since then. We’ve worked hard this pre-season.”

As for the Premier League 2 campaign itself, the young Hammers’ season opener is just a week-and-a-half away, with Dmitri Halajko’s development squad welcoming Arsenal to London Stadium on Monday 16 August.

“It’s a massive occasion,” Longelo confirmed. “It’s a chance for us to impress and show Arsenal what we’re made of and what we’ve been working on in training.

“It’s going to be a tough decision for the coaches to pick our starting eleven, but that’s what we want to give them.”

And as for rediscovering his goalscoring touch?

“I’ll keep working on it, so hopefully there’ll be more to come,” he smiled.