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The West Ham way: the kids are alright

Filed: Wednesday, 23rd December 2015
By: Staff Writer #3

These are undeniably exciting times to be a West Ham United fan, with the move to the Olympic Stadium providing the club with the superb opportunity to potentially challenge for the major honours on a regular basis.

Expectations are now such that some seem to be advocating a Viv Nicholson ďspend, spend, spendĒ policy in the transfer market. Compiling player wish-lists is all well and good, but there is a tendency to forget both FFP restrictions and the youngsters already on the books.

The Academy and developing our own players is a significant part of the clubís identity and whatever the financial benefits of the stadium move and the vast hike in TV money from next summer, it should remain so. Itís a case of striking the right balance between big name recruitment and continuing to provide first-team opportunities for academy prospects.

The club has been keen to stress that, having overspent in the summer, the January transfer window will be one spent largely watching from the sidelines. With the exception of securing a permanent deal for Manuel Lanzini, significant business would seem unlikely. The current squad already has greater depth than for many a year and, with clubs understandably reluctant to do business mid-season, itís widely acknowledged that the January isnít an ideal time to be recruiting.

Itís not as if thereís a desperate need to go on a spending spree either. You would have to be a fully paid-up member of the BFS fan club not to acknowledge that there has been a significant upturn in the quality of football on show this term. Much of that comes down to having a manager who understands that there is some moral obligation to entertain the paying public but, in fairness to Allardyce, the performances, if not the results of late, are also testament to the benefits of the greater strength in depth of this seasonís squad.

Thatís not to say that the cheque book should necessarily be put under lock and key, but that the squad situation is such that we can afford to wait until the calmer waters of the summer transfer window and, where possible, put our faith in the youth to step-up until then if required.

So what positions currently provide cause for concern? Well I suppose the most obvious one is right-back, where Slaven has clearly lost faith (probably only temporarily) in Carl Jenkinson following some poor performances earlier this season. With James Tomkins now filling-in, there are calls from some quarters for a replacement to be brought in. Is it really that pressing a need that it canít wait until the summer?

By my reckoning, in addition to Tomkins and Jenkinson, there are a number of other candidates that could first be considered. Reece Burkeís loan deal with Bradford City is set to end on 2nd January and, although primarily a centre-back, he is capable of filling in at right-back if required.

There are other youngsters in the frame too, in Kyle Knoyle, Leo Chambers (recently returned after a lengthy injury absence) and Alex Pike. Thereís also Joey OíBrien, although given the fact that he hasnít featured at all since recovering from injury, it would strongly suggest that he will be out the door next month.

Even so, between them, Tomkins, Jenkinson and the youngsters should certainly see us through until the end of the current campaign, at which point a decision can be made as to a long-term solution.

There has also been talk of cover being required at left-back, although with summer recruit Stephen Hendrie and Lewis Page on the books, would it really be sensible to thwart their progress and opportunities? If required, Angelo Ogbonna could also switch to left-back from the centre (with Reece Oxford potentially getting an opportunity at the back). Were we still in Europa League and Capital One Cup contention there might be a valid argument for a back-up now, but thereís already sufficient cover under the circumstances.

The other main area of concern is among the forwards. We certainly donít want for numbers, but there are valid question marks over the fitness, form and suitability of those available. You certainly wouldnít put money on Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia or Nikica Jelavic being at the club at the start of next season, but signing quality strikers in January is often a notoriously complicated and expensive business. Unless Slaven has someone already lined up, itís difficult to envisage much movement in or out until the summer.

There doesnít appear to be any imminent sign of a young striker coming through the ranks at present. Elliot Lee is currently on loan at Blackpool until early January, but is now 21-years-old and out of contract in the summer. Itís now make or break for Lee as far as West Ham are concerned. At least give him an occasional place on the bench over the latter half of the campaign to see if he warrants a new deal.

The midfield is already well-stocked, so it would be something of a surprise were there to be any moves on that front next month (Lanzini aside) unless there is an opportunity for Slaven to bring in a long-term target ahead of schedule.

Despite the competition for places, Josh Cullen has had a taste of Europa League football and even a few seconds of Premier League action. Martin Samuelsen, currently on a one-month loan at Peterborough United, is another who might get the occasional opportunity to add to his own European experience over the coming months. There is also Diego Poyet to return from Milton Keynes Dons for next season.

Letís not go down the road of that lot across town whoíve just given the boot to the P45 One by overlooking our youngsters or just farming them out on loan. West Ham is better than that. Have some faith in the kids.

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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