Will Greenidge: Pre-season is picking up fast ahead of West Ham United U23s' London Stadium opener
If the goal of pre-season is to be ready for that first competitive kick of a ball come season start date, Will Greenidge certainly feels on course to achieve it.
Friday evening’s scheduled game against Aldershot Town at Rush Green Stadium will be West Ham United U23s’ third in seven days, all against senior football teams.
As well as the more inherent test of facing more physically developed opposition, each such tie is also an examination of lesser experienced West Ham youngsters’ hunger to come out on top of oxymoronically well-fought pre-season encounters.
A dominant 5-1 win against Southend United last Friday showcased the U23s’ ability to do spectacularly; a 2-1 defeat to Crawley Town on Monday ought to have done, but for a lack of efficiency in front of goal on the night.
Greenidge is therefore relishing the prospect of going up yet another gear with the U23s against National League team Aldershot on Friday, with just two-and-a-half weeks to go until their Premier League 2 season opener against Arsenal at London Stadium.
“It’s all picking up pretty fast in pre-season,” Greenidge told whufc.com. “It’s another big test for us on Friday against Aldershot.
“We said at the start of this run of three games that we wanted to come away with three good performances. I think we’ve got one-and-a-half so far, so against Aldershot, the boys know what we need to do: play like we did in the second half against Crawley from the start, and we’ll be fine.
“The games are picking up now. In pre-season, you want to get games under your belt, and you want to get fully fit.
“It’s great to have the first game of the season at London Stadium. What a way to kick off the season! We’re all excited for that and everyone’s going to be doing their best on the pitch to make sure they’re in the team for when the campaign starts.”
Monday’s performance against Crawley saw the young Hammers fall behind under significant pressure and a series of set-pieces in the first half, with Greenidge – most often a full-back in recent seasons, but this pre-season playing at centre-back – pivotal in repelling the hosts’ aerial threat.
... as we build up towards the season we’ve got to make sure we take those chances to kill teams off, like we did against Southend
Only being one goal behind allowed West Ham’s U23s to come out reinvigorated for the second half and create a multitude of chances, Thierry Nevers taking his for the equaliser – but unfortunately, a late scruffy goal won the game for the home team at The People’s Pension Stadium.
Nevertheless, Greenidge echoed West Ham U23s lead coach Dmitri Halajko’s opinion that were plenty of positives to draw from the display.
Greenidge reflected: “I thought in the first half against Crawley we were a bit slow and a bit sloppy in possession at times. The coaches had a word with us. We know our standards and we didn’t really live up to them.
“In the second half, I thought we came out, were a lot better than them, dominated the ball and probably should’ve scored more than the one goal we did. I think we can be proud of the way we turned it around in the second half and we probably should have come away with a result.
“Crawley showed they could play some good football, and we more than matched them at the start of the second half – we had a lot of great chances.
“It’s still pre-season so results aren’t everything, but it would have been nice to come and get a result against a League Two team. We can definitely be proud of how we did, but as we build up towards the season we’ve got to make sure we take those chances to kill teams off, like we did against Southend.”
As for his position, 2019/20 Dylan Tombides award winner Greenidge admits he is happy growing into whichever role best employs his considerable height, pace and defensive attributes to best effect.
He concluded: “I’ve always felt comfortable at centre-back because I always say I’m a defender first and foremost, even as a full-back.
“Obviously, with my size and my physicality, it’s almost natural for me to play in a central position. I played there when I was with the U18s, so I’ve always felt natural there.
“Playing in pre-season as a centre-back, I’m definitely feeling my way back into it. Crawley was definitely my best performance there and I feel like I’m making steps with every game.
“Being central in games like that is always different to in U23s games; against a senior side they play more long balls and like to test you in the channels. You know their set-pieces are always going to come into the box.
“I really want to test myself like that and be more aerially dominant, and I think I showed that well on Monday. I won a few headers and put people off a few others. It’s always a challenge in games like that, but I think I held my own, and hopefully I’ll continue to do so.”
Friday night's U23s game against Aldershot Town at Rush Green Stadium will be played behind closed doors, with kick-off at 7pm, but you’ll be able to find a full match report, reaction and highlights on whufc.com over the course of Friday evening and Saturday morning.