Since joining West Ham after the expiration of his previous contract at Celtic in the summer, Armstrong Okoflex has torn up the Premier League 2. With his ability to play in all positions across the front line and current (borderline unplayable) form, should the young forward see more first-team action?
Irish-born winger Armstrong Echezolachukwu Inya Oko-Flex started his football career at his local national academy St. Kevins Boys Club, Dublin. After being recommended by former Arsenal, West Ham, and Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Brady, Okoflex made the trip to North London to join the Gunners, aged 11. After five years with Arsenal’s youth team, the Irishman joined Scottish side Celtic in 2018, where he worked through the U18’s into the reserves. He was named in his first senior Celtic matchday squad aged just 16 years old – his first senior debut coming in January 2021 with a 30-minute appearance against Hibernian.
"“I grew up admiring a few players: Ronaldinho, because he was just gifted; Brazilian Ronaldo, who, for a No9, had everything; and Jay-Jay Okocha, because my parents are originally from Nigeria, and he’s someone I grew up watching on YouTube – he did some crazy things back in the past!“I also like to entertain, but it’s also about doing it in the right amount. Goals win you games, and I’m an attacker, so goals and assists are very important to me.”"
And entertain he has.
Since joining the Hammers U23’s, Okoflex has made 9 starts, scoring 8 goals and assisting once. On his debut in August 2021, the winger netted a 20-minute hattrick against his former club, Arsenal. More recently, in the emphatic 6-0 win against Manchester United, Okoflex narrowly missed out on his second hattrick of his season, netting two penalty kicks.
With both English and Irish citizenship, Okoflex is eligible to play for either nation. At U16 level, he pulled on both the white and green jersey, scoring 1 goal in 3 appearances for the Young Lions. Okoflex also qualifies to play for Nigeria. Despite this, his birth country appears his choice of allegiance. Today, he was called up to the Republic of Ireland’s U21 squad, who play European Championship qualifiers over the coming weeks. Ireland manager Jim Crawford said:
"“Armstrong is an exciting talent, I’ve seen him a few times with West Ham, Under-23s football, scoring a few goals.“I’ve seen him play wide left and he can play either side or central. He’s someone we’ve had an eye on for quite some time.”"
With such success coming on the pitch for the teenager over the last few months, it’s only a matter of time before he gets his senior squad call-up. David Moyes still only has one out-and-out striker in Michail Antonio, and with still two months until the January transfer window, Okoflex would be a fantastic option to have on standby. West Ham’s academy has always been considered one of the greatest in the UK, dubbed ‘The Academy of Football.’ But more recently, with graduates such as Declan Rice and Ben Johnson seeing large amounts of first-team football, and impressive youth players such as Jamal Baptiste, Harrison Ashby, and Dan Chesters all beginning to work their way into the senior squad; the future appears bright for academy graduates. The form that Okoflex is in at the moment will not go unnoticed by David Moyes, and will definitely be one to watch in the future.