Billy Bates has heaped praise on the efforts and mindset of the entire West Ham United U18s side, after his goal helped the side to a 6-3 victory over Aston Villa.
The Hammers fell 2-0 down within the opening eleven minutes in Saturday's fixture, but instantly responded and were level by the interval.
A much improved second half performance saw the young side register their fifth win of the season to maintain their perfect start to their 2022/23 campaign.
“It was a brilliant win for us,” Bates told whufc.com. “To go 2-0 down so early was really poor and we weren’t happy with our start to the match.
“The lads really stuck together though, just as we have in the last few weeks too and we managed to come back into the game. As a team we know we can still perform even better, but the three points is the most important thing today.
“There are a few things that we need to look at, some of the goals we conceded weren’t great and we want to keep more clean sheets, but we got the win and we stay at the top of the league, which is great for us.”
Bates suggested that the levelling finish just prior to the interval lead to the Hammers' much improved performance in the second half.
He evaluated: “The start of the match wasn’t good enough from our point of view. Lewis Orford and Kaelan Casey scored two important goals for us before half time which gave us a lot of confidence.
“At half-time, the coaches told us to continue to pushing and that if we stuck together as a team we would secure the three points and that’s exactly what we did.”
After fourteen months on the side line after suffering an ACL injury, Bates topped off his return to the starting XI with a goal.
The defender was keen to discuss his journey back from injury as well as the emotions of scoring on his return to the starting XI.
He reflected: “It’s been a really tough period for me after suffering from the ACL injury. To be out for fourteen months was really tough.
“To return after such a long period and to score on my U18s debut is incredible. Words can’t describe how I am feeling. I am so happy and it makes all the hard work worth it. Most importantly we got the three points too.
“The aim for me now is to continue to build up my fitness, to start more games and to help the team as much as I can.”