West Ham United look set to continue in their trend of producing illustrious midfielders from their much-celebrated academy, with lifelong Irons fan Lewis Orford looking as though he will be the latest iteration to follow the likes of Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick.
The 16-year-old has earned comparisons to the current Hammers captain, with his height and “range of passing beyond his years” reminiscent of Rice according to John Brewin of The Guardian, who have released their Next Generation 2022 list, featuring the most notable youth starlets from all 20 Premier League clubs.
In the article, Brewin compliments Orford’s “ability to arrive late on the scene for scoring opportunities”, with his timing and delivery seemingly just right.
The starlet, who played at under-18 level when still eligible for West Ham’s under-16 and under 15 squads, has “dedicated himself to improving his set-piece delivery,” with the Irons youth star already scoring directly from a corner so far this season.
Earning comparisons to Rice at this stage of his career bodes well for Orford, who may prove to be the England international’s replacement by the time he is ready to stake his claim in West Ham’s first team across the next few years. That could certainly be the case if the long-standing transfer interest in the 23-year-old eventually materialises in the form of a London Stadium exit.
Having recorded a solid 11 goal contributions in the form of three goals and eight assists last season in the Under-18 Premier League, Orford has brought that form into the new campaign – and then some – having scored four goals in as many appearances, with a solitary assist also to his name.
Moyes will be hoping that the starlet can replicate Rice’s rise to prominence, with the Irons skipper also standing out at underage level. The 23-year-old has gone on to make more than 200 senior appearances already for West Ham, developing into a fully-fledged England international along the way.
Judging by the observations in the Next Generation 2022 list, Orford could be Rice 2.0 in this part of east London, maintaining the stellar tradition of outstanding Hammers academy products.