West Ham comfortably beat Rapid Vienna 2-0 and gave youngster Sonny Perkins his debut as the Hammers cruised through to the Round of 16 in the Europa League.
It was a fantastic night for West Ham, who clinched top spot in Group H in an empty stadium, with a match to spare. It was especially memorable for the 17-year-old attacker, Perkins, subbed on after 77 minutes, nearly scoring with one of his first touches.
Perkins has been on fire for the West Ham youth teams and has fully deserved his chance in the first team. Is he going to be the next star to come through the Academy of Football? We take a closer look at him.
West Ham prodigy, Sonny Perkins, made his debut in the Europa League victory over Rapid Vienna. Is Perkins a star in the making?
Perkins was an attacking midfielder but after an injury crisis in the West Ham youth ranks he started playing as a striker at the beginning of this season.. The teenager scored a ‘perfect’ hat-trick in his first game as a centre forward for the Under-18’s side and hasn’t looked back since.
His unbelievable form has led to him being promoted to the age group above, the Under-23’s, where he has scored five goals as West Ham sit 2nd place in the division, one point behind leaders Arsenal.
Just two months after being a midfielder for the Under-18’s he made his first team debut as a striker on the European stage. This remarkable rise shows David Moyes, as well as, Kevin Nolan, who keeps a close eye on promising West Ham youngsters, believe Perkins has what it takes.
It was a beautiful sight when goalscorer, captain and academy graduate himself, Mark Noble, went over to the left-footer at the end of the game to congratulate him.
Speaking after the match, Perkins said , “Everything’s happened so quickly this season. It felt great out there to play with all of these great players and train with them, that can only help me get better.” He continued, “I’ve still got a long way to go to where I want to be, but hopefully this can be the start.”
There is real belief the next crop of youngster coming through are something special.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, the just departed Under-23’s manager, Dmitri Halajko, said, “I’m telling you now, there’s more coming. Jamal Baptiste plays for England Under-19s, Sonny Perkins plays for the Under-18s.”
He added, “In most age groups for England, there’s West Ham representation. That shows the depth we have.”
The likes of Armstrong Oko-Flex, Harrison Ashby, Archie Woods and Freddie Potts are just a few of the names often mentioned as something special by those close to the club.
However, we must be careful to not hype up our youngsters too much. Plenty have talent but have failed to make it in East London. The likes of Reece Oxford and Josh Cullen spring to mind as players who it just didn’t work out for. We hope the same doesn’t happen to Conor Coventry too, who should such promise in pre-season, now on loan at Peterborough.
With West Ham already through to knockout stages perhaps there is a chance to see more youngsters get minutes when we take on Dinamo Zagreb at London Stadium in a few weeks.