West Ham can pride themselves on the number of top centre-backs that their academy has developed over the years.
Bobby Moore, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are among three of the greatest centre-backs in English football history while Declan Rice is the latest to break into the senior squad although he has since adjusted to playing in a midfield role instead.
Although it is way too soon to be certain, Jamal Baptiste could be the next West Ham academy product who’ll be mentioned as one of the best centre-backs the club has ever produced.
At the age of just 15, Baptiste played for West Ham’s Under-23s on Wednesday night as they kept a clean sheet and won 1-0 against Valencia’s B team in the Premier League International Cup.
Nathan Holland’s first-half goal was enough to secure victory for Dmitri Halajko’s side but the performance of 15-year-old Baptiste at centre-back should be what is talked about most.
According to The Athletic journalist Roshane Thomas, Baptiste “played well” and “looked very comfortable” in what was arguably one of the biggest matches of his young career.
Yep, Holland played very well. Cardoso didn't play but a young lad called Jamal Baptiste, only 15, played well. He was the youngest player on the pitch and looked very comfortable.
— Roshane Thomas (@RoshaneSport) September 12, 2019
Baptiste is no stranger to playing at a level that is well above his age.
Last season he made 14 appearances in the Under-18s Premier League and was also called up to play for the England Under-16s side in February.
Even though he is playing alongside, and against, players who are far older than him, Baptiste has made it clear that he is remaining grounded throughout his development in East London.
“It’s been a privilege playing week-in, week-out for the U18 team this season and with the older boys and of course it helps you learn a lot,” he told West Ham’s official website in January.
“It has been a great experience because the level I am playing at is very high and competitive.”
Baptiste is one of the most exciting young players that West Ham have on their books at the moment and if he continues this monumental rise through the club’s youth system there’s no doubt that we will be seeing him making his first-team debut in the coming years and the Hammers faithful will have another young centre-back to be very excited about.