Emmanuel Longelo on his ‘new role’ with West Ham United U23s this season
Emmanuel Longelo feels his responsibilities with West Ham United U23s are progressing along with his status in the side.
The 20-year-old left-back enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in Claret and Blue last season, making his first-team debut against Hull City in the Carabao Cup third round last September.
After playing more minutes for the U23s than any other member of the development squad – on numerous occasions wearing the captain’s armband – the former winger continued to develop as an exciting, attack-minded full-back at Premier League 2 level.
This forthcoming campaign, the U23s – boosted by the recruitment of young talents including Thierry Nevers, Armstrong Oko-Flex and Pierre Ekwah – will be looking to build on an impressive end to 2020/21 which saw four wins in their final seven games.
More men’s football is definitely my goal this year – that’s my target and something I’m looking forward to trying to achieve
Now entering his third season with the U23s squad, Longelo recognises that – as one of the more experienced players in Academy football – taking on board such a status will only augment his chances of further first-team football in the season to come.
Longelo told whufc.com: “For me, this season is a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it. I never shy away from a challenge.
“It’s my third season with the U23s now and it’s a new role for me. I’ve got to be more of a leader now – one of the players that others look up to and respect.
“I’d say I need to be welcoming the new lads and making them feel like they’re part of the team, letting them know that they’re part of the squad and that if they need any help we can show them around.
“I think they’ve settled in very well so far. They look comfortable and we’ve been cracking jokes and having a laugh since they arrived. We’ve been working hard together to push each other on – so far, so good.
“Pushing on is the goal this season. I’ve played Academy football for all my life so far, so to make my first-team debut was nice. More men’s football is definitely my goal this year – that’s my target and something I’m looking forward to trying to achieve.”
Longelo could be in line to face Southend United on Friday evening as the U23s continue their preparations with an exciting friendly at Roots Hall.
A packed pre-season programme will see the development squad take on the National League outfit before travelling to League Two side Crawley Town on Monday afternoon, a pair of back-to-back friendlies against senior opposition.
Putting in the hard yards now, Longelo believes, will be of significant benefit when the new season kicks-off in mid-August.
“Pre-season can be physically tough at times!” Longelo admitted. “People can get tired and get weary, but that’s just the process of preparing. You feel like that at times but we all know we’ll be alright.
“It’s very necessary. You’ve got to do a lot of gym to build up that strength, a lot of work with the ball, and build up again. The season starts sooner than you think, so you have to be prepared.
“All the lads will be ready for it. It doesn’t surprise me that everyone came back so fit from the summer break – we were given a programme to work out on our own and everybody stuck to their tasks.
“We just want to keep going. We’ve a lot of games, but games are good for us, and lots of the boys have had some first-team opportunities as well. I’m really looking forward to the new season.”