West Ham United defender Jamal Baptiste on one of his ‘biggest targets’ for the season
Jamal Baptiste has admitted that he is hoping to continue his recent goalscoring run when West Ham United U23s travel to Crawley Town on Monday!
The 17-year-old centre-back understandably only scored his first professional Academy goal in an FA Youth Cup tie against Norwich City in March, but has proven a real threat from set-pieces in pre-season thus far, netting twice.
A first senior goal – albeit in a non-competitive setting – arrived at the culmination of West Ham United’s first-team pre-season training camp in Scotland, when Baptiste met Jarrod Bowen’s corner with a controlled volley against Dundee.
And the teenager went on to add to that tally for the U23s on Friday night, emphatically heading home from an Emmanuel Longelo corner to grab the U23s’ second goal during an impressive 5-1 win over Southend United at Roots Hall.
As Dmitri Halajko’s development squad prepare to face their second senior opposition in the space of four days - a trip to Crawley Town’s People’s Pension Stadium awaits on Monday night - Baptiste explained that he’d like to keep that goalscoring feeling going into the new season.
“It’s something I’m trying to add to my game – hopefully I can get another goal on Monday!” he laughed.
“It was one of my biggest targets last season: to get on the scoresheet more often. This pre-season, I think I’m doing well so far – I’ve got two in four games! I can’t really complain with that.
“More importantly, the team did well against Southend. Everyone worked well together.
"Going on from the last game against Ebbsfleet [a 2-1 defeat], I think everyone just pulled together and put in a great performance together, working as a team to get the result.”
The 17-year-old has enjoyed a strong calendar year since putting pen-to-paper on his first professional contract as a footballer in November 2020.
Baptiste has featured regularly for the Academy of Football’s development squad, making 20 appearances in Premier League 2 last season, as well as attaining his first-team debut in the FA Cup fourth round against Doncaster in January.
The England youth defender recognises that his journey towards becoming a regular first-team player for West Ham United is an ongoing developmental process, and is therefore studious when the chance arrives to train alongside the likes of Angelo Ogbonna, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop and co.
“That’s how I’m learning the most,” he explained.
“I’m learning off those experienced players every single day – they’re telling me what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. I’m just picking little things up from every first-team player.
“I think getting to go away with the first team for pre-season again was a big achievement and I hope I did well when I was there.
“I’m enjoying training at Rush Green with them, just gaining more experience every week, and then playing regularly with the U23s and showing my level and why I’m there.”
As for the quick turnaround between pre-season fixtures, Baptiste feels he and his teammates are feeling the benefit of a preparatory programme which has featured regular opportunities across the board at both U23s and first-team level.
He concluded: “This pre-season’s worked really well for us. We’ve had a lot of games, and that just builds our character.
“That builds us up as a strong team, together, and we hope to start the season off strong as a result.”
West Ham United U23s against Crawley Town kicks off at 7pm on Monday 26 July at the People's Pension Stadium. Tickets are on sale via the Crawley website.
If you can't be there in person, expect to see a full match report, reaction and highlights on whufc.com over the course of Monday evening and Tuesday morning.