As a West Ham fan the one thing that I, and am sure most other West Ham fans, can pride themselves on is that we produce the cream of English talent.
The title of “The academy of football” pays homage to the continuous success the club has for producing and coaching talented young players. The accolade was originally given to West Ham by the national press, and has now been officially adopted and can be seen in numerous prominent points around the club most notably printed beside the crest on the artificial surface around the pitch at Upton Park.
The term “Academy of Football” was first used early on in Ron Greenwood’s reign at West ham (1961-1974) where he inherited a young team from the previous manager Tom Fenton. The true heritage of Ron Greenwood’s team owed a lot to its pedigree that was put into practise by Tom Fenton.
Some of the most notable players of the time under Ron Greenwood and Tom Fenton that came through the academy were – Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, John Sissons, Harry Redknapp, Ronnie Boyce and Alan Sealey.
Over the next thirty years the academy has produced many talented players such as Frank Lampard Snr and Trevor Brookings who were both in the squad that won the FA Cup for West Ham in 1975 and that team still holds an achievement that no other club to date has – a team that was made up of only English players. The most notable players from the FA Cup win in 1980 that haven’t been mentioned are Alan Devonshire and Alvin Martin. 1983 saw one of West Hams most prolific strikers come through its academy which was Tony Cottee who scored 118 goals in 256 games (during two separate spells). Then there was Paul Ince in 1986, but I think the less said about Ince the better but a talented player from West Ham youth academy he is. 1996-1999 saw players such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard Jnr, Jermaine Defoe, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick emerge from the academy, all of whom have went on to be full English Internationals. Most recent graduates from the academy are Anton Ferdinand brother of Rio, Glenn Johnson, Mark Noble, Jack Collinson and James Tomkins.
The academy holds most of its praise to the director of the academy and youth development at West Ham. Tony Carr MBE has been the director since 1973 which in itself is a major achievement. He himself was a graduate of the academy but his career was unfortunately cut short through injury. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2004 Tony Carr said “No way is it all down to me. It’s very difficult to say why we’ve been so successful in youth terms; I suppose it’s down to a number of factors but, most importantly, our recruitment area of east London and Essex is really fertile”. I can’t help but feel this was Tony Carr just being modest as his success over a long, sustained period is not just luck or the area, he has to highly credited for the work he has done and his achievements within this sector of the club.
As the academy of football we have to go back to when we kept hold of players such as Moore, Hurst, Brookings, Peters and take that forward into the modern day. We can’t get anywhere by selling our best young players that have came through OUR academy such as Rio, Lampard Jnr and Cole. Within this new crop we have Noble, Tomkins and Collinson and they should be our backbone with other successful graduates from the academy joining them along the years. This in my opinion is how and where we can become a success.
Players to keep a eye out for coming through the ranks and West Ham’s academy are – Elliot Lee, Kieran Sadlier, Nathan Mavila and Sam Baxter. Some other key names that are now in the West Ham development team from the academy are – Rob Hall (on loan at Birmingham), Leo Chambers, Daniel Potts (On loan at Colchester), Sebastian Lletget and Paul McCallum (on loan at AFC Wimbledon). These are the players I have high hopes for,