For my latest Iron Views piece I spoke to Kai Barrett who runs the excellent – @whufcyouth – and has kindly agreed to do a Q&A with me. Kai also runs a thread on KUMB, as well as his own website, and, has a tremendous amount of knowledge about the youth system at West Ham. Do give him a follow and his website a read!
KB: No problem! I’ve always been interested in academy football really, it’s always nice to give them support I think and whilst I can’t really make most games due to where I live I always like to keep updated via Twitter/Streams etc. I started the site because at the time I wanted to shed more light on the academy for fans and I am really pleased on how far its grown – when I started the site I got merely 10 views per week and I’m lucky enough to get a lot more now. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the players and the staff as well along the way. I’m really happy knowing that there are a lot of fans who take an interest in the academy too!
Usually [I keep on top of the on-goings by] just ‘keeping my eyes peeled’ for news and information, and I also like to keep a record of all match statistics (lineups, goal scorers etc.) for stats – it can be useful in the future! I think these days I’m more active on twitter than on the site, usually because there is no point making a post for just small pieces of information. But I’m really grateful for the support I’ve received on both.
KB: Mostly through research but once in a while I may speak with someone around the club!
KB: Quite a few! Josh Cullen I think has a good chance. Being a West Ham fan he’s drawn comparisons to Mark Noble and I think with the right development he could very well be the next Noble. Marcus Browne and Grady Diangana are two very talented attacking midfielders who have been involved with the first team recently and deservedly so – Djair Parfitt-Williams too but he’s unfortunately injured. We’ve also got a lot of very good young centre-backs, maybe not as highly rated as Oxford/Burke but all tremendously good and can have a good PL career – Josh Pask, Tunji Akinola, and a little bit younger but Aji Alese, who captained England’s U15s last season.
KB: We’re very strong defensively! Reece Hannam is a left back who has been really good. I saw him make his U18 debut last season as an U15 against Man City, and despite the 3-0 loss he was excellent going forward and in defence up against an 18 year old who was part of the Spanish youth team. We’re short of left backs at academy level with Page and Hendrie out on loan and I think Vashon Neufville should be promoted to the U23s full time and Hannam can compete for the U18 LB spot with Mason Barrett, who is another good defender who can play at CB. Harry Hudson and Kevin Dalipi are centre-backs that have earned call-ups to the U18s so far and Jeremy Ngakia, Sean Adarkwa and Odisseas Spyrides are all good attacking talents.
KB: To be honest, I don’t think it has ever been “barren” as such. The quality has always been there – we’ve always had a fantastic set of coaches and fantastic players. It was just a case of limited opportunities, we all know how Sam Allardyce hated to play youngsters and to think with the right development the likes of Seb Lletget, Dan Potts, Rob Hall, Blair Turgott, Matthias Fanimo and many more could all have had a good shot at the first team. Thankfully Bilic is more willing to play youngsters and hopefully we can get 3 or 4 academy-produced players in the first team in the near future.
KB: If I’m honest, I don’t really think he’s made an “impact” as such. We’ve always had a strong academy with strong coaches and I think it’s more of a case of the manager taking a look at the players – something Bilic has done more than Allardyce.
KB: It’s very useful. Not just for the club but for the player. It’s sad to say this but not everyone from the academy makes the cut so it is good for the player to get experience of the Football League or even Premier League rather than dropping down into non-league (nothing bad about that of course, just they deserve to play at the highest level possible) or out of football completely.
KB: If I’m honest, I’m not too sure. If it is at the expense of one of our academy players, then I’m not a fan. I’d rather see someone get a chance in the U23s instead of being released at the end of their scholarship in favour of someone else. Signings from other foreign clubs don’t always work out too. It’s still early for Quina and Martinez of course but for example Raphael Spiegel has done nothing apart from play second string football and barely impress on loan at teams like Carlisle. Why are we keeping a 23-year-old on as third choice when he has barely impressed in lower league football? It’s not like he is a young player like Sam Howes or Nathan Trott anymore. Those two also have much more potential in my opinion. Back to my earlier point about giving people a chance I’ll mention the case of one player recently. You could say it’s only U23 football but a guy named Ebere Eze was released by Millwall at the end of his scholarship. Apparently he wasn’t good enough but has signed for QPR and is one of the top scorers so far in their division with 5 goals. It’s always worth giving someone an extra chance.
KB: Leo Chambers, definitely. He hasn’t found a club yet but he definitely has the ability to play in the Championship and work his way back up to the Premier League. Ross Elsom is an attacking midfielder who deserved longer as he barely got chance to play for the U18s (15 goals from midfield in his U15 season). And most notably, Kortney Hause. He was with us up until U16 level but wasn’t offered a scholarship and look at him now. There were even rumours floating around that we wanted to sign him!
KB: It’s quite hard to say really. If the club will give them regular game time then it’s a good thing. These leagues are usually the equivalent of mid/lower table Premier-League/Championship so it’s still a decent quality of opposition. It’s also foreign so can benefit the player in the future (stuff like learning a new language, adapting to new surroundings) and should they leave the club perhaps a new opportunity in a different league. I’m genuinely not sure all the details of the partnership other than the loans, Venlo having a training camp here and us having a training camp over there, and friendlies, those things. But if it helps the player develop well in a good, but challenging, environment then I don’t see anything wrong with it.
KB: Unfortunately, this month I haven’t been that active on my site and on the KUMB thread so apologies to those who follow them for the lack of updates, but I should always be active on Twitter – if you have any questions about the academy feel free to send me a message! I do have a big project that I’m working on that I hope you’ll all really like – it still has a long way to go but I’m working on it as much as I can. If anybody has any suggestions or comments about the website please just send me a message on Twitter, I’m always open to new ideas. And finally, I’m hoping to be tweeting more about academy football in general (and West Ham of course) and perhaps non-league on my personal account @kbarrett2316, so if any of you would like to follow me that’d be really appreciated!
KB: Thank you! I Really enjoyed doing this.