Swansea City U23s v West Ham United U23s – All You Need To Know
A week after going top of the Premier League 2 at the exact halfway mark of the season, West Ham United U23s turn their attentions to their Premier League Cup challenge when they travel to Swansea City’s Landore Training Centre on Friday morning.
Here’s all you need to know about the game, which kicks off at 12pm mid-day on Friday 3 December and will be played behind closed doors in South Wales…
The story so far
November was quite the month for West Ham’s development squad.
Three wins and three clean sheets out of four games in Premier League 2 – including a thumping win over Liverpool and an impressive victory over reigning champions Manchester City – were accompanied by a first-team debut for 17-year-old Sonny Perkins and first-team matchday squad involvement for the likes of Jamal Baptiste, Aji Alese and Dan Chesters.
Their latest victory in the league, a 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers – the winner scored by Kamarai Swyer early on, who also assisted Perkins’ winner against City – was perhaps a fortuitous one, with the visitors twice striking the woodwork, but it was luck the Hammers had earned with their otherwise energetic and hard-working displays.
The December fixture list has more of a Premier League Cup focus for new U23s lead coach Mark Robson’s young charges, with two group-stage games to be played as the Hammers look to kick on in Group F.
With two games played, they currently sit second on three points, with one victory – a remarkable 3-2 turnaround against Exeter City in east London in October, when they scored twice in the last five minutes to win – and one defeat, a flat 1-0 loss away at Wolverhampton Wanderers in September.
Wolves top the pile with nine points from their three games played, while Exeter and Swansea, who have played three times and twice respectively, both have one point.
The top two teams in each group progress, so three points against the Category Two academy at Swansea would put West Ham in a commanding position to go on and clinch progression.
Reinstated in the absence of the Premier League International Cup this season, on hold given COVID-related considerations, the Premier League Cup is the domestic equivalent of that competition, and returns to the domestic programme after not taking place in 2020/21.
Open to Category One and Two Academies, with Categories Three and Four clubs competing in qualifiers to join them, the tournament is designed to enhance the competitiveness of the Professional Development Phase league calendar with knockout football.
Taking a similar format to the UEFA Champions’ League, where 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four, each team plays their three opponents both home and away over the course of the first six months of the competition, before one-off knockout ties ensue between the last 16 from March time onwards.
Contested between Under-23 players, each side is allowed to field three over-age outfield players and a goalkeeper born before 1 January 1998 in the 2021/22 season.
West Ham have been drawn in Group F alongside Category One Academy Wolves, Category Two Swansea and Category Three Exeter, who beat out Plymouth Argyle in qualification.
This campaign marks the first time in five seasons in which West Ham have competed for the trophy, but it was not all that long ago that they won it: in 2015/16, after a two-legged final ended in 1-0 home wins for both sides, the U21s defeated Hull City U21s on penalty kicks at the KC Stadium.
Despite dropping down to Category Two status ahead of the 2020/21 campaign, Swansea City’s youth programme continues to pay dividends for the club’s first team.
No longer competing in Premier League 2 following the change, Swansea now play their league football in the Southern section of the Professional Development League, of which they currently sit bottom with two wins from eleven games.
Managed by former long-serving favourite Kris O’Leary, who spent 15 years as a senior professional with the Swans having first signed for the club as a schoolboy, Swansea City go into Friday’s fixture without a win in five games in all competitions.
Four of those matches ended in two-goal defeats, including their last outing, a 2-0 loss at home to Wolves in this very competition.
Nevertheless, there remain plenty of talented young individuals hoping to follow in the footsteps of first-team regular Ben Cabango and recent Burnley signing Connor Roberts, with other alumni including Dan James, Joe Rodon and Oli McBurnie.
Last time out…
West Ham United U23s last faced Swansea City U23s in Premier League 2 Division 2 two seasons ago, when a 4-2 win at Landore Training Centre in November 2019 continued the young Hammers’ title charge.
Oxford United loanee Nathan Holland was the star man that day, bagging an impressive second-half double as the U23s came from behind to take a 4-1 lead – Anthony Scully and Dan Kemp also on the scoresheet – prior to a late Swansea consolation.
In total, West Ham U23s have won five and lost four games against Swansea U23s since the formation of the Professional Development League.
What they’re saying
West Ham United U23s lead coach Mark Robson: “I’ve enjoyed the three weeks I’ve had with the players so far.
“We’ve had another week to prepare now, which has been an opportunity to look at maybe one or two other players who perhaps aren’t getting game time at the moment, but we’ll keep planning and preparing like we have done previously for a challenging test against Swansea.”
How can I follow?
West Ham United U23s’ match against Swansea City U23s will be played behind-closed-doors at Landore Training Centre, kicking off at 12pm.
You can still follow proceedings, however, with our live blog on whufc.com from 11.30am and Twitter updates, and there will be post-match reaction and highlights pieces available over Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.