Oh so expressive
Full of energy to give
a ball that is pitched with a snap of the wrist and a strong downward spin, which causes the ball to drop suddenly and deceptively veer away from home plate.
The sensational goal scored by 20 year old Ravel Morrison, and the two goals scored by Manchester United’s 18 year old Adnan Januzaj, has directed the spotlight onto youth academies in the EPL.
Even though Morrison came through the Manchester United youth academy, West Ham definitely holds its own, when compared to any other academy.
West Ham United’s youth academy is one of the most famous in England. Established by Ron Greenwood and Ted Fenton, back in the 50’s and 60’s, it produced the famous trio, which helped win England its only World Cup in 1966, namely, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.
The youth academy philosophy has had a major impact on how West Ham has played the game on the field. The reputation of this club playing “attractive” football has long been recognized, and producing players such as Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, Paul Ince, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole, only reinforced this reputation.
In today’s EPL, it is vital to develop young players. Being able to promote from within allows a club like West Ham to allocate its cash resources wisely, in the hope of staying in the EPL and also competing for top ten finishes, or better. For a young player, coming through the West Ham academy can have a positive effect, possibly stardom with the home team, or at least an opportunity to play professional football. Here are some examples of academy players in the EPL, not playing for West Ham:
Chelsea: Frank Lampard, John Terry
Manchester United: Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand
Tottenham: Jermain Defoe
Liverpool: Glen Johnson
Reality however is sometimes cruel, and for every star, there is tale of broken dreams, and in the worst cases, little future in the game. Recent history provides us with plenty of examples of player’s that were highly regarded, but never quite made it.
An instant crowd favorite was Freddie Sears, who looked like a “keeper”, after his explosive debut. Who can forget him scoring on his debut……….two years later, Sears scored his second goal. Freddie left the club following promotion to the Premier league, in the hope of re-establishing himself in the lower divisions.
Another player with that “scoring potential” was Zavon Hines, who rose through the ranks in the academy. Many likened him to Carlton Cole. As it turned out he was even more like Carlton Cole than Carlton Cole, scoring only 3 goals in three years.
He left the club at the end of the 2011 season. Zavon has toiled in the lower leagues since leaving, and is still not able to score.
Junior Stanislas was a major hit during the Avram Grant days. His opportunity came late in 09/10 season, and he scored 4 goals in 28 games. His pace on the wing was a definite plus, and Junior looked like he would be a first team regular under Grant.
Unfortunately, Grant departed and Gianfranco Zola arrived. During Zola’s two year reign, Junior only played a handful of games and managed a meager 2 goals.
His departure was no real surprise.
In the cases of Sears, Stanislas and Hines, it was their on-field performance that hastened their departure from Upton Park.
In the case of Christian Montano, it was his own self inflated worth that proved his undoing. A highly thought of prospect, Christian enjoyed successful loan spells in the lower leagues, getting the game experience that he needed to develop. Unfortunately, his timetable was very different to that of the club, and so were his wage demands.
Not surprisingly, his rise to glory and international fame was only realized in his alternate universe, and he thus departed in his spaceship.
Another academy product, Bondz N’Gala signed professionally in 2008, having joined the club as a 13 year old. A regular reserve team player, N’Gala was also loaned out, so that he could get the playing experience needed. Unfortunately, he never blossomed as a player, and his only 1st team appearance was as a substitute.
His career at Upton Park ended after the 2010 season, and N’Gala has toiled since in the lower leagues.
Having let his cousin Jermaine Defoe escape to Tottenham, West Ham hoped that Anthony Edgar would be as good as Defoe, and stay at Upton park. Ironically, in July 2010 Edgar scored his first goal in a pre-season friendly when he replaced Junior Stanislas. That was the highlight of his tenure at Upton Park, and unfortunately even after leaving, Edgar has not found the consistency needed to play on a regular basis. Maybe the expectations were too high, especially as Edgar is only 5’ 6”.
Coming from the Mervyn Day and Phil Parkes era of West Ham goalies, I watched with interest when the club signed a 16 year old player from the Czech Republic, Marek Stech. He seemed poised to come through the system and be our Number 1, but it never happened. He signed a new 5 year deal in the summer of 2008. Loaned out to various clubs, Stech did feature in some 1st team appearances, as well as being named as substitute in thirteen occasions in the Premier League. His potential was never realized, and with Robert Green playing in front of him, he was released at the end of the 2011/2012 season.
My wait still continues for the next Mervyn Day….Who by the way played more games for Leeds United than he did for West Ham. A fact that is both astonishing and upsetting at the same time.
Clearly the word “potential” is just that. What a player is at 16, can be a long way from what the player becomes as a 20 year old. What is important is that the West Ham academy continue to develop player’s, and provide them with the opportunity to get better, even if this ultimately means, playing elsewhere. There is an actual person behind these decisions, which as fans we sometimes lose sight of. For every magic moment produced by Ravel Morrison, or Adnan Januzaj, there are many more tears shed, when a career ends at 20 years of age.
Of a new day,
Sirens and noise
Filled the world outside.
As each face
One last moment
Peace is at hand
As the world
A world is reborn
As I lay here
Watching you breathe
You comfort me
Make me feel safe
That sparkle ignites me
Makes me smile
When i am alone
And when I am surrounded
Looking at me
With your eyes
To love you
Tracing each contour
We Signed Who?
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune’s always hiding,
I’ve looked everywhere,
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
The words to our club anthem have never been so apt, when I look at what Big Sam and the rest of the West Ham United Board did during this off season.
Here’s a list of the players arriving at Upton Park for this season’s campaign:
Andy Carroll, £17.5 million for a striker that has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for longer than a month, never mind an entire season.
Razvan Rat, a free transfer for the captain of the Romanian National Team, who is 32 years of age.
There is no doubt that he will bring plenty of experience to the Hammers defense, however at 5’ 8”, he will not be dominating at set pieces.
Adrian, a goalkeeper who comes from Real Betis on a free transfer. Personally I think he will challenge Jaaskelainen for the starting spot,
even though Jaaskelainen finished last season strongly, he let in some awful goals.
Danny Whitehead from Conference North side Stockport County after he was recommended by Dietmar Hamann.
I think Big Sam best summed this up, when he said “Danny is very slight, which we’ll work on, but the question is can we create that potential into a Premier League player?”
Everyone was very happy when Carroll signed, and it seemed to be a really positive sign that the club was willing to spend money.
Unfortunately, since then the checkbook has remained firmly closed. Here are just some players that have moved in the last couple of months, and the fee involved:
Forward Clint Dempsey £6 million
Defender Steven Caulker £8 million
Defender Jordi £2.5 million
Defender Erik Pieters £3 million
Defender Dejan Lovren £8.5 million
Midfielder Etienne Capoue £9 million
Forward Carlos Tevez £12 million
Forward Iago Aspas for £7 million
Now, I did not expect West Ham to spend the £50+ million to secure all these players, but let’s be extravagant and spend £20 -£25 million.
Now pick and choose until you reach that number, and let’s see how much better the squad would be. I understand that signing multiple means that weekly wages need to be negotiated. So, how much did West Ham receive from the Premier League for the 2013/13 season?
That would be £48,746,943, yes close to FORTY NINE MILLION POUNDS.
This amount is reached by combining revenue for the following (rounded up) -
Equal Share £14 million
Facilities Fees £6 million
Merit Payment £10 million
Overseas TV £19 million
And that Overseas money will only continue to rise and rise and rise. I know for a fact that NBC here in the States recently agreed to pay $250 million,
starting this year until the end of the 2016 season, which is a revenue record for football!
This much is certain, the money given to teams by the Premier League will ONLY increase.
Even if I ignore the £49 million elephant in the corner, why have West Ham not even considered any of these players, that all received a Free Transfer, and at least four will be playing in the Premier League this season -
Forward Roque Santa Cruz
Defender Marc Muniesa
Forward Nicolas Anelka
Defender Kolo Toure
Midfielder Andrey Ashavin
Midfielder Florent Malouda
I’m sure that the company line would be, “well we’re not sure that they would fit into our style or team concept” – never mind that all of these players are better than what we are starting the season with.
The goal should be to improve and to compete for a spot in Europe, yet I feel that with the squad as it stands on August 8th,
we will be battling to stay in the 12 – 17 position range. Our lack of team speed was very evident last season, and we have done nothing to improve this.
When I look at other Premier League teams who we will be battling and fighting for points along with us, I see this -
Swansea brought in 8 players, spent £23 million
Sunderland brought in 8 players, spent £18 million
Fulham brought in 7 players, spent £7 million
Newcastle brought in 1 player, spent £2 million
Norwich brought in 8 players, spent £29 million
Stoke brought in 2 players, spent £4 million
Aston Villa brought in 6 players, spent £13 million
West Brom brought in 2 players, spent £0
As a West Ham fan, I live with the realization that we cannot ever hope to compete with Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, who are in our own backyard.
But now I have to watch Norwich, Swansea and Sunderland, spend more money than us. To me that is embarrassing.
The Premier League starts in 9 days.
A subtle shift in ambiance
Or my own fear realized.
Dare to move
Dare to dream
That this feeling is real
Now but a used courtesan
Watched and treated
As a plaything
To Have but
Never to Hold.
Imaginations run wild
Guffaws of laughter
Prove a cruel partner
Without thought or remorse.
As your darkness
Yet guides me too.
Only to please
Only to serve.