Southend United v West Ham United U23s - All You Need To Know
West Ham United U23s face two back-to-back pre-season fixtures against senior opposition this weekend, beginning with a trip to Roots Hall to take on National League outfit Southend United on Friday evening.
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming game…
The story so far
Dmitri Halajko’s development squad – the majority of whom have received first-team minutes and opportunities in recent weeks – are continuing their build-up to the new season with a pair of away trips to face senior opposition: first at Southend on Friday, then at Crawley Town on Monday.
The lead coach spoke of the value of such tests following Saturday’s late 2-1 defeat by Ebbsfleet United, whose line-up included Joe Martin – former Academy player and son of West Ham legend Alvin, with over 300 senior Football League appearances to his name – and the unrelated former Manchester United veteran Lee Martin.
“We were playing against experienced players and that’s why we like these fixtures, because that’s what our lads need to play against: people who have played 200 or 300 Football League games and who have got a bit of know-how,” Halajko explained.
While the lead coach was disappointed with the general standard of the young Hammers’ performance in defeat, he also felt it was not reflective of the ability or character they possess – traits evident in their 4-1 opening pre-season win over Loughborough University the week before.
As their pre-season preparations ramp up another gear with this weekend’s double header, the U23s will be hoping recapture that same confidence on the pitch.
The West Ham development squad might come up against some familiar faces in Southend, whom they last met on the opening day of 2020/21.
The young Hammers travelled to Roots Hall that day to face the Essex-based side in last season’s Papa John’s Trophy group stages, winning 3-1 thanks to three spectacular goals: a long-range brace from Mipo Odubeko and a sumptuous lob from Conor Coventry.
Southend went on to endure a challenging campaign in League Two, winning only ten of their 46 games on the way to a 23rd-placed finish which saw the Shrimpers drop out of the Football League for the first time in just over a century.
But the shoots of recovery were even then salient for Phil Brown’s side, who lost only five of their final 20 games and have spent their summer renewing deals for several key squad members, including former Cyprus international Jason Demetriou.
Keep an eye out as well for captain John White, who has almost 500 Football League experiences to his name; Nathan Ferguson, the former Dagenham & Redbridge and Crawley Town midfielder who possesses a keen eye for goal; and exciting young attacking talent Louis Walsh.
And while there were five trialists in Southend colours during their opening pre-season game – a 2-0 win over Great Wakering Rovers on Tuesday – the nucleus of the Shrimpers’ squad remains an experienced, hard-working and technically proficient one, the perfect test for the young Hammers.
Southend have only one pre-season game of which to speak – the aforementioned friendly game on Tuesday, in which Demetriou netted the first goal from the penalty spot and a trialist added a second in the closing stages.
West Ham U23s, meanwhile, will be looking to kick on from last weekend’s disappoint and reassert their undoubted quality in pre-season.
What they’re saying
West Ham U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko: “It’ll obviously be a tough game against Southend. We’ll be playing against players far more experienced than what we’ll have out on the pitch. We’ll have to improve on last week pretty quickly and learn some lessons.
“It’ll be another really tough game and hopefully we can show an improvement on our last performance.”
How can I follow the game?
Tickets can be purchased from Southend United on the phone (08444 770077) or from the Southend Ticket Office. Tickets will also be on sale on the day of the game up until kick-off.
Despite no limit on attendance, the club are only opening the East Stand for Southend United supporters, with the North Bank open for West Ham fans.
Supporters are kindly encouraged to wear a face covering whilst walking around the stadium, both indoors and outdoors, until you take your seat in the stand.
For more information and prices, please visit the Southend United website.
Of course, if you’re not able to make it over to Roots Hall, expect to see a full match report, reaction and highlights on whufc.com over the course of the weekend.