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Are West Ham becoming ‘The Academy of Football’ once again?

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West Ham United are one of just a few Premier League clubs that are renowned for their history of producing top class young English players. At the 2010 World Cup a substantial amount of the England squad was made up of players that graced the West Ham United youth setup.

The likes of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Glen Johnson all blossoming onto the scene at around the same time, all coming from the same academy and all in the same England squad doesn’t happen by chance. It needs a driving force behind it. It needs a talent spotting genius who can spot future stars from a young age, iron out their weaknesses and enhance their star qualities. It needs someone like Tony Carr.

Tony Carr MBE is a man that football fans around the country owe a lot to. He was responsible for training and improving young English talent that has played for sides in all levels of the football league. But the tactical knowhow of Carr is what amazes me the most. He would develop players expertly and hold them away from the first team until they were truly ready, no young player would be rushed, no young player would be forced into a position they weren’t entirely comfortable in. Yet as youngsters he changed John Terry from a midfielder into, it pains me to say it, one of the best centre backs in English football in the past 20-years and remarkably he moved the great Rio Ferdinand from a striker to a midfielder and then a centre back. Carr wouldn’t just recognise great talent and help it in its current form, he would look at a player and say “You’re a good footballer, but change this and you could be great.” All of Carr’s academy graduates sing his praises. They all know that they owe a lot to this great man.

Since that crop of England Internationals, Carr led through regulars Mark Noble, James Tomkins and the sadly now departed Jack Collison. The three of them haven’t got to the international status of some of the academy’s previous graduates, but they have been very valuable to the club nonetheless. After those three there had been a bit of a lull in graduates. Perhaps due to Tony Carr moving on, perhaps due to the current manager’s views on ‘Youth v Experience.’ Whatever the case, there has not been as many youngsters flourishing at West Ham in the past five-years or so.

Now, however, things may be changing again. With the long term deals for Reece Oxford and Joe Powell signed for in recent weeks, things are starting to look bright for the academy prospects once again. Both players, particularly Oxford, are tipped for big things and have already impressed for a while. Hopefully it is signs of things to come.

The academy at West Ham United is one of the reasons why I got so into supporting West Ham. Nurturing talents that we can call “one of our own” (and genuinely one of our own, not an Arsenal fan and youth player who now plays for Tottenham) is a rare commodity. The fact that we have produced them in the past is a great attribute to the club and I hope it continues for a long time to come.

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2 comments
  • dan says:

    Our development squad/under21’s are bottom of the league and the under18’s are 6th…
    Think we got a while to wait until we get back to where we was with players we where bringing through when winning FA youth cup.

  • Barry Hayes says:

    If they are good enough then they are old enough. Put them in at 18/19 as long as they can physically cope.
    Ray Houghton came on as a second half sub away to Arsenal, then was let go !!!
    Possibly could have used him !!!!

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