Have West Ham lost their notorious reputation as ‘The Academy of Football?’
It is with great concern that I am writing this article; however I feel that I speak on behalf of many Hammers fans in saying that West Ham’s once infamous academy has seen a dramatic change for the worse in recent years.
I grew up with West Ham churning out the likes of Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard Jnr to name but a few, not to mention their predecessors ; namely Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. However, the change in policy and priority at the club is not the same as it once used to be. Whether it is a change in the way in which the club is being run, or whether the change is on a much larger scale and having an effect on clubs up and down the country, it is a worry amongst all football fans.
The issues with the academy have been growing, and today the news broke that Elliott Lee could well be exiting the club in the summer due to contract talks stalling. Elliott Lee has been a key player for the U-21 Development Squad, with 8 goals in 13 games this season he is unarguably a prospect for the future, unless contract talks do not resume. A similar issue occurred last year with youngster Rob Hall, and after it was revealed that he did not play a part in Allardyce’s plans for the future, he quite rightly left the club for Bolton Wanderers, where he has seen plenty of first team action.
Questions must be asked as to why these players are not looking to stay with West Ham; Are their chances of breaking through to the first team better elsewhere? Will they get a game under the Allardyce formation? This brings me onto the question of whether the bigger picture needs to be looked at and scrutinised. The traditional formation of 4-4-2 is merely a thing of the past, it seems to have vanished and it is certainly hard to come across in The Premier League. Teams are almost all using the 4-2-3-1 formation, or a variation of that, meaning that it is especially difficult for the likes of Elliott Lee to be given a chance of playing first team football as he is well down the pecking order behind Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole, Marco Borriello and even Ricardo Vaz Te.
The ever decreasing academy breakthroughs, once common at The Boleyn Ground and indeed other clubs up and down the country are already, and will continue to have a negative effect on the national squad. It worries me that there is not enough talent shining through the ranks of the English game to make us genuine contenders for competitions such as The World Cup and The Euro’s like we once were, with the likes of Moore, Hurst, and Peters etc. The FA need to address this problem in order to do something about it, at both a domestic and national level.