There are very few clubs that can consider themselves as the Academy of Football. West Ham United, however, are one of those clubs and need to keep that mindset alive.
In all honesty, the West Ham Academy had died for possibly the past decade or so. If you look at the timeline between graduates like Jack Collison and James Tomkins to the most recent ones like Declan Rice, Josh Cullen, and Reece Oxford there is a huge gap of time where nothing was too overly productive.
You could see it starting to reform under Bilic but it, finally, took off once Pellegrini took over. Although what the Hammers have now in the Academy is just hope and potential, it’s still a lot more than what it was over 10 years ago. It is safe to assume as well, that it will only continue to grow with potential graduates in the coming years.
It seems clear and obvious that the club needs to stick to its roots and keep the Academy thriving, but there does come a deeper level of concern then just that. West Ham, like a few others in the EPL, thrives off of having a West Ham man as the backbone of the club. It’s not a want but more of a necessity and you can look back over the entire history of the club to see it.
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Currently, the only Academy graduates on the Hammers senior squad are Mark Noble, Winston Reid, Ben Johnson, and Declan Rice. Others that have progressed out but are on loan are Grady Diangana and Josh Cullen. To be completely honest, the number of graduates isn’t high enough and with the age gaps of Noble and Reid to the others are close to if not over is 10 years.
Dave Walker and ExWHUemployee talked about this issue on this week’s The West Ham Way podcast. The discussion was more based around who will take over for Mark Noble as not only the Hammers captain but a solid leader on the team but it feeds right into this one as well.
With Reid and Noble probably only having 2 to 3 more “good” years left, will the likes of Rice or Diangana be ready to continue the tradition from the club of having a leader that was produced from the Academy? Rice would be the obvious choice as he plays the same position as Noble but at that time, he will still only be 23 or 24.
The same goes for Grady as he will still be young and somewhat still considered new the playing fulltime in the EPL. He has done extremely well on loan this season and has told the club and media that he is ready to stay and perform in East London for years to come.
As it turns out, even Mr. West Ham himself was still only showing glimpses of what he is now at that age and so that moves us to the question of who will step in the meantime until someone from the Academy gains and earns the moxie to become the next great Hammers legend?
Although there is now that gap in time, the hope is there and with players like Aaron Cresswell, Robert Snodgrass, or possibly even Diop or Wilshere will need to help fill the void between current and future West Ham Academy legends making the next jump. After all, the Hammers cannot be called the Academy of Football if its academy is poor.