Saturday 04 Dec
Updated Saturday 04 Dec 09:00

Levi Laing: Winning was the most important thing

Levi Laing

A full-throttled performance was demanded of West Ham United U23s to see off a battling Swansea City U23s side at Landore Training Centre on Friday afternoon.

And for Levi Laing, a first start since September required the young centre-back to be at the top of his game.

The Hammers were dominant in the first half but came under pressure in then second – with the Hammers having gone 3-0 up thanks to goals from Aji Alese, Jayden Fevrier and Armstrong Okoflex – the South Wales fought their back into the game.

The Swans did eventually manage to pull a goal back through Azeem Abdulai, and pressed heavily for a second, before the two teams exchanged late penalties, Mesaque Dju striking for the Hammers, to settle the score at 4-2.

Three points in the Premier League Cup clash sees West Ham cement second place in Group F, with half their fixtures played and the top-two set to advance to the knockout stages.

Laing reflected: “It was good that we could get that win in the Premier League Cup. 

“The first half we were very good and we kept the ball well. The second half could have gone a bit better, but we got the three points, which is the main thing.

“It was a good game in the second half. Swansea came onto us a lot more and we didn’t know how to get out at times. 

“Sometimes, we could have been a bit cleaner on the ball, but we still scored two goals and those got us the win, which was the most important part.

“The second half could’ve been a bit better from us, but the main thing was to get ourselves up to six points in our group.”

Alese’s opening in goal in particular was a wonderful one, with the U23s captain picking the ball up inside his own half before embarking on a slaloming run between numerous Swans defenders before finishing from close range.

With the level of talent in our squad, there are no guarantees, so everyone has to train harder and put the work in

Levi Laing

That such a goal came about was of little surprise to Laing, however, given the instructions of new U23s lead coach Mark Robson to his centre-halves.

Laing smiled: “With our new coach Mark, he loves for the defenders to drive on, so for Aji to be trying that wasn’t really a surprise… but when he went on to score, I wasn’t really expecting that! 

“Aji was excellent. He’s a very good leader and good to play with as well, because he guides you through games.”

At 18 years of age, time is on the side of Laing, who only signed his first professional contract with West Ham United over the summer.

Although he has had to contend for a place in the starting XI with two highly in-form centre-backs in skipper Alese and fellow 18-year-old Jamal Baptiste, whose form led to a Premier League 2 Player of the Month nomination in October, the centre-back is appreciating the competition.

“It’s good to have competition for places,” Laing reaffirmed. “It makes everyone train harder. 

“With the level of talent in our squad, there are no guarantees, so everyone has to train harder and put the work in, week-in, week-out, every day. 

“I like the competition, so it’s good to have Jamal and Aji as my competition as well.”