Michael Forbes: Once I got the call for West Ham United U23s, I was ready
Once again this season, the Academy of Football produced a day to be proud of on Monday.
As with David Moyes’ first team, West Ham United U23s have enjoyed some memorable results this campaign.
But for 17-year-old centre-back Michael Forbes, playing at the heart of a much-changed back four, a 4-2 win over Crystal Palace U23s coincided with a first-ever start at development squad level – and a performance to be proud of.
The U18s captain showed no fear on the occasion, despite coming up against Palace attackers with senior Premier League experience, and he and his teammates’ collective efforts drew particular praise from U23s lead coach Mark Robson.
Forbes was just delighted to make the most of the opportunity and, having appeared briefly in the Papa John’s Trophy win at Fratton Park last season as well, hopes it could provide a springboard from which to add more memorable days.
“It was very good,” Forbes smiled, speaking to whufc.com. “I got a late call on Saturday night to tell me that I was going to be playing.
“Once I got that phone call, I was just ready to take my opportunity. I didn’t really think too much about – I just let go, see where the game took me and just believed in myself. I think I did alright for myself, so I’m happy enough going away from the game.
“I’m just happy to be a part of the team and get the win. The team had changed a bit from what it’s regularly been, so I was just happy to help us get across the line and stay top of the league.”
Forbes’ fine defensive efforts alongside fellow centre-back Will Greenidge – himself only making his tenth appearance of the season– provided the platform for Armstrong Okoflex to score an impressive treble (including two penalties) and Kamarai Swyer to seal the win.
I actually just came back from a spell out with illness, so it’s all happening very fast!
The 4-2 victory, combined with other results over the weekend, saw West Ham United U23s take a four-point lead at the top of Premier League 2 Division 1.
Forbes. Noted: “Palace had a lot of quality out wide and up front, and I think Will and I worked well together.
“We have a good friendship off the pitch as well, so that was important going into it – we were familiar with each other.
“I obviously had trained a lot with the U23s, so it was a bit easier coming into the game – I wasn’t thrown in at the deep end – but I felt we dealt with Palace well and I’m just really happy to come away with the three points.”
An all-action full debut for the U23s may yet prove the first of two big games in Forbes’ week, with an FA Youth Cup third-round tie against Newcastle United still to come on Friday evening at Rush Green Stadium.
The second-year scholar, who helped the U18s reach the fifth round of the competition last season for the first time since 2011/12, wants to go one better this year.
Forbes: “I actually just came back from a spell out with illness, so it’s all happening very fast - it’s a first U23s start and the FA Youth Cup in the same week!
“It’s been an unbelievable season so far. I just want to keep pushing on and hopefully keep getting more minutes for the U23s, and also see where the Youth Cup takes us.
“A hundred per cent, we’ll be up for it. We have a really strong squad and whoever plays on the day, I’m sure they’ll do the job for us and we’re looking forward to it. We’ll be ready to take the game to Newcastle.”