17 Jan 2001
"It’s always been a dream to play for West Ham United," centre-back Ajibola Alese said upon making his West Ham United debut against Hull City in the Carabao Cup in September 2020.
Having been with the Club since the Under-8s age group, Alese became a full-time Academy of Football scholar in summer 2017, by which time he had already made his U18 Premier League debut against Norwich City on 4 February of the same year.
The defender featured eight times in total in 2016/17 while still a schoolboy before making a further four U18 Premier League South appearances the following season. The 2017/18 campaign also saw Alese debut in Premier League 2 Division 1 in a goalless draw with Everton on 11 August 2017, and keep clean sheets on each of his first three starts.
Alese put pen-to-paper on his first professional contract with the Irons in July 2018, and won the Dylan Tombides Award having performed to a high standard in his 24 appearances at U18, U21 and U23 levels in 2018/19.
He subsequently started at Old Trafford for the U23s in their 2-2 draw against Manchester United in August 2019, before spending the remainder of the season on loan at League One side Accrington Stanley, for whom he made 15 appearances in all competitions.
At international level, he was capped three times at U16 level, wearing the captain's armband, before graduating to the Young Lions' U17 squad in February 2018, moving on to the U18s in September 2018, the U19s in September 2019 and the U20s in October 2020.
Alese also helped England to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 UEFA European U17 Championship finals, where they were edged out 6-5 by the Netherlands in a penalty shootout. The defender featured three times at the tournament, also starting the group-stage defeat by Switzerland and quarter-final win over Norway.
It was no surprise, therefore, that Alese made such a towering full West Ham United debut against Hull. Playing all 90 minutes, the defender completed two tackles, two clearances and three interceptions, while also winning three out of four ground duels, against the League One side, on the way to a 5-1 victory.