Mark Robson

Robson: U23s must roll their sleeves up now

Mark Robson was earnest in his assessment that West Ham United U23s were second best against Liverpool U23s on Sunday afternoon.

The young Hammers never really got going at Liverpool’s Academy Training Ground and found themselves on the backfoot from the off, having just a single shot in the opening 45 minutes on Merseyside.

Even then, they managed to go in at half-time with the platform of a goalless first half – but the pattern of play persisted in the second half.

Liverpool ran away comfortable 3-0 winners in the end due to goals early in the second half from Jack Bearne, Tyler Morton and Thomas Clayton.

With the Premier League 2 title now realistically beyond them – Manchester City require just a single point from their final two games to clinch the championship – Robson has challenged his players to raise their standards in their two remaining games.

“I thought Liverpool were really good today,” the lead coach told “They were on the front foot for the whole game, and I was really impressed with the way they played. 

“They were aggressive, they played in the right way, they passed the ball really well… and I’ve got say we couldn’t deal with them. 

“We struggled when we pressed and never moved ball quick enough ourselves. We didn’t get on the ball and our quality, when we did try to play, was poor. All in all, I’ve got to say I was really disappointed with the whole performance – probably the worst I’ve had since I’ve been here, and I told the boys that afterwards. 

“That wasn’t good enough if we’re trying to get players into the Premier League. I had players who weren’t rolling their sleeves up when they needed to. That’s two games now – against Blackburn [a 2-0 defeat] and today – and I’ve got to ask them: how bad do you want it?

“I think the other disappointment for us was that we had no energy. People weren’t making angles or playing from the framework that we had. We needed to move the ball quicker. 

“Liverpool were on us like a rash throughout and we just struggled to find any kind of rhythm. Every time we tried to play through, they just kept nicking it off us. 

“I was disappointed with a lot of individuals today. If you’re going to get into the first team, you have to show that fight, and I didn’t see it today.”

The match on Merseyside marked a first U23s start for 17-year-old left-back, who picked up his first assist for the development squad off the bench in Monday’s 5-1  win over Leeds United in the Premier League Cup.

Whilst a tough game for the side collective, Robson took the chance to praise Clayton’s persistence.

He noted: “We had Manny Longelo out with a little illness, so Regan got his opportunity after doing well the other day. 

“U23s is a different level to U18s in terms of physicality and speed, and that will be a really good learning curve for him. It was a tough game, but that’s what he’s going to get used to in the next couple of years.

“He never gave up, he kept going, and the players will learn from that experience.”

While the league title is now realistically beyond his players, Robson wants to see them round off their domestic season playing as well as they can.

The development squad also have a Premier League Cup quarter-final against Premier League 2 Division 2 champions Fulham to look forward to on Friday evening – but Robson reiterated that progression in that competition will require improvement.

“We want to finish as high as we can,” he explained. 

“We’ve got two league games left and the title has probably gone – we knew that after the Blackburn game – but we want to finish as high as we can. We’ve got two games and we need one win to finish second, so that’s the aim. 

“That’s the target, and of course we’ve still got the Cup, so it would be nice if we could go all the way through – but I’ll be expecting a lot more from the boys over these next few games, that’s for sure.”