Filed: Monday, 24th April 2006
By: John Simkin
When I went to Wembley to see West Ham defeat TSV Munchen in the European Cup Winners Cup in 1965, ten of the team had been born in London - and most had come from the academy (the 11th had been born in Worcester).
Ron Greenwood developed a scheme where he sent out his players to coach in East End schools. He thought the best way to learn was to teach. This became very competitive as the players were permanently assigned to these schools. It also produced a system where local schools provided a stream of talented young footballers.
John Lyall had also been a member of this academy. He joined West Ham straight from school. Lyle received his education from Ron Greenwood and Cassettari’s, a family-run Italian café near Upton Park.
After training the players would go to Cassettaris to discuss football tactics. The Cassettari Academy produced the following outstanding football managers and coaches: Malcolm Allison, Noel Cantwell, Ken Brown, John Bond, Dave Sexton, Andy Nelson, John Cartwright, and Frank O’Farrell.
When Lyle was forced by injury to retire at 23, he continued to coach the youngsters at his assigned Stepney school. Greenwood later appointed Lyle as his assistant and in 1974 replaced him as manager. Lyle continued this policy of working with schools to ensure the development of local football talent.
Despite the mismanagement of the club, the academy has continued to produce talented youngsters. Unfortunately, most of these have been sold off to the highest bidders.
I was therefore pleased when Alan Pardew was appointed as manager. It soon became clear that his policy was to make full use of the academy. He also bought young British players who he felt he could improve (he did not have the money to buy the finished article).
What is more, he tended to buy London born players - and if possible, men who had supported West Ham when they were at school.
Yesterday we fielded a team of TEN British-born players (Yossi Beanyoun being the only player born outside of these shores). In fact, in many ways it was the most important point of our victory. Pardew has bucked the trend.
He has openly questioned the idea that managers should search the world for cheap imports (only the wealthy clubs can afford the real talent that is on offer). He is not only doing a great job for West Ham, he is doing great things for British football.
Maybe at last British football can lose this inferiority complex we appear to be suffering from.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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