The Hammers’ academy lost a healthy lead to lose against Cheltenham Town in the EFL Trophy, which put an end to their 16-match unbeaten run.
A number of under-18’s players made the step up to senior action in the game and joined a squad mixed with experienced academy members for manager Dmitri Halajko.
It was Dan Kemp who caught the headlines in the game, scoring twice to give his side the lead on separate occasions at Whaddon Road.
Declan Rice sent the young Hammer an Instagram message on his personal account after the clash with Cheltenham, heaping praise on the right-winger for his recent performances, saying he is on “absolute” fire.
The praise from Rice could indicate that the England international expects Kemp to be one of the next breakout stars to make the leap into the senior set up in the next couple of years.
The 20-year-old could follow in Rice’s footsteps with his rise to the top, having also have left Chelsea’s academy and made the move to East London in 2016.
Kemp has also made the breakthrough on the international stage, featuring three times for England at under-20 level, as he continues to improve in Halajko’s side.
Manuel Pellegrini has already proved that he is willing to give academy talent chances in the first-team in cup competitions should they continue to improve, as he has highlighted with Nathan Holland.
That means players like Kemp will most likely use that as motivation to keep improving in the under-23’s squad, and the glowing praise from players such as Rice could highlight the belief the club has in their academy.