Thursday, April 28
The final Final at Upton Park…
A Vicar's Son writes…
West Ham 1 Hull City 0
On a bitterly cold Monday night more than 10,000 fans watched West Ham's most important Academy game since the 1999 FA Youth Cup final v Coventry, which starred Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. The crowd for the first leg of the Development Squad Final against Hull was big enough to persuade Ken's Cafe to open and to delay the Tubes enough that I missed kick off.
Just like Cole's precocious skills shone in 1999, this time young Norwegian Martin Samuelson took centre stage. Technically he was dazzling, beating opponents with ease, although he still needs to work on his passing. He seems to have toughened up during a loan at Peterborough, and could play a key role in next year's Olympic Stadium debut season.
With Bradford City loanee Josh Cullen back for this game, and first teamer Sam Byram at right back the Hammers played some fine one touch football that had the young crowd squealing with delight. But after coming close several times Hull ended the half better, and Swiss keeper Raphael Spiegel made one terrific save.
I spent half time failing to buy a programme or a much needed cup of tea, before an evenly contested second half. West Ham's best move of the game ended with a great chance for Canadian international Doneil Henry, who finished like a centre half and scuffed it wide.
Hull were causing problems for a defence well marshalled by captain Reece Oxford. A triple substitution saw the departure of Jamal Hector — Ingram, with Bermudan Djair Parfitt - Williams returning after nearly three months out injured. And he made the breakthrough when Hull's keeper dropped the ball under pressure at a last minute free kick, scrambling home before taking his shirt off during wild celebrations, earning an inevitable booking. There was just time for Cullen to almost chip the keeper from the halfway line - the linesman was so far away he didn't spot a fine save and gave a goal kick.
So the fans went home happy from what for most will be their last game at the Boleyn and West Ham will be confident of finishing the job next Wednesday.
Samuelson, Oxford, the number 10 Marcus Browne and Parfitt-Williams look real talents and Reece Burke, on loan at Bradford where he was player of the year, is also a real prospect. There's nothing Hammers fans like more than players from the Academy making the first team. The last golden generation, led by Cole and Carrick, were sold cheap in a relegation fire sale. This time, the next generation will surely stick around to help the push towards the Champions League.