Kevin Keen

Keen: U18s got their rewards for coming through a tough test

Kevin Keen was beaming with pride at West Ham United U18s’ tenacious 1-0 win away to Burnley in the FA Youth Cup fourth round. 

Having earned plaudits for free-scoring football this campaign, which has seen them win all 12 U18 Premier League matches played, the young Irons had to put in a different kind of impressive performance on Tuesday evening to secure a hard-fought victory over the Clarets.

Keen's squad had already had to deal with the tie being postponed as they waited to leave Rush Green last Friday morning, due to a frozen pitch at Clitheroe FC. The match was then due to be played in Burnley before being switched to the Lancashire FA headquarters in Leyland, 20 miles away.

As it was, George Earthy’s finish on 89 minutes was the difference in a physical and entertaining encounter at The County Ground, earning a 16th victory in 17 matches in all competitions in 2022/23.

Not that the young Hammers were lacking chances to score earlier in the game, as Burnley goalkeeper Charlie Casper put on an excellent showing to deny the Irons a goal before the eventual winner, stopping Earthy, Callum Marshall, Gideon Kodua and Patrick Kelly from netting. 

Speaking after the game, head coach Keen was full of praise for West Ham’s opposition and signalled that his team had had to be at their very best to secure a spot in the fifth round of the competition. 

A another away tie at Stoke City awaits in the last-16, one Keen and his team are already eagerly anticipating…

the U18s celebrate their win at Burnley

The first thing I’ve got to say is that I really have to give a lot of credit to Burnley and their coach, Tony Philliskirk, for the way his team played.

I think Burnley are as good a team as we played all season. They were really, really good and that then takes me onto our team. I have to give our lads a lot of credit. It wasn’t our best performance, but they dug in and had a real go.

I couldn’t tell you how many corners we defended but it’s certainly up in the double figures. So massive credit to the lads for coming through a really tough, stern test. 

We spoke at half-time and we told the lads ‘people don’t give you cups and league trophies for nothing’. You have to work hard and this game was as hard as it comes


Their goalkeeper was unbelievable but, for our goal, it was a fantastic bit of play. 

It was brilliant from Gideon [Kodua] to power down the side and have the presence of mind to pull the ball back across goal. Although one might think it’s an easy finish, the goalkeeper was in tremendous form. 

I’m really pleased for George to get the goal because he worked so hard and it was a nice way to end the game. 

cele George Earthy U18s v Burnley

The last few days have been a mental challenge for the boys [with the tie originally scheduled for Saturday before being postponed].

You think you’re playing one day, then you’re not, and the boys were disappointed about that. Then we’re playing at one venue [in Clitheroe] and then we’re at another venue [in Leyland].

So, mentally, the challenge was there for the lads but, whatever you throw at these kids, they’re a resilient group and they came through it.


The lads have earned the reward of a place in the fifth round.

I think it’s the furthest the U18s have been in this competition for a few years and it’s a huge reward for the players and for the coaches.

We go to Stoke City now, the possibility of maybe playing at their main stadium, and of course our old Academy Manager Ricky Martin is now there too, which adds another layer. Full credit to Burnley because they were excellent, but this is a super win.