Wednesday, August 9

Daily WHUFC News - 10th August 2017

Chicharito: I'm 100 per cent fit and ready

Chicharito says he is '100 per cent fit and ready' to make his West Ham United debut at Manchester United on Sunday. By a quirk of the fixture computer, West Ham kick-off the 2017/18 Premier League season at Old Trafford, the stadium where the No17 spent four seasons as a Red Devil between 2010-15. And the Mexico striker has been training daily since joining the Hammers a fortnight ago, improving his fitness and developing a chemistry with his new teammates ahead of what he admits will be an emotional return to Salford "I'm very happy and very glad at the prospect of playing my first game for West Ham on Sunday," he began. "It's the best way for me to come back to the Premier League and to a country which gave me my first chapter and first four years in Europe. It's going to be the best way to start this Premier League season if we get a good result over there, obviously, because that's the main goal in my mind and for everyone in this Club, to get a very good and very important result. "I feel I am ready and 100 per cent fit. I've been training pretty well with the lads and the decision stands with my manager, with my boss. The only thing I can say is that I am ready and if I am picked to start, I am ready and I am glad."

Chicharito refused to speculate on whether he is a better centre forward now than the one who left Manchester United for Bayer Leverkusen two summers ago, instead insisting that his only focus is on repaying the faith put in him by his new employers. "That's something I can't describe, but rather something I can only prove inside the pitch, which is where I prefer to speak!" he explained. "In May, we can see how my season went and we can answer that question.The only thing in my mind here is to obey the ideas that the manager has for me and for the team and deliver that confidence that he has in me."My mind is completely at West Ham. Right now, I'm a Hammer, I'm a West Ham player and I want to do even better than I did in Manchester and then we'll see what happens in this season."

Speaking of managers who had confidence in him, Chicharito is hoping to bump into the man who brought him to the Premier League for the first time seven years ago – Sir Alex Ferguson. "I didn't speak to him before I moved to West Ham and I don't know if he will text me before the game on Sunday, but hopefully I can see him if he goes to watch the game!" he smiled.

*You can follow West Ham United's opening Premier League game of the 2017/18 season live on from 3pm on Sunday 13 August.

Antonio & Haksabanovic to feature in PL2 opener

Michail Antonio and West Ham United's latest signing Sead Haksabanovic are set to feature when the Hammers' PL2 side get their season underway at home to Everton on Friday night. Terry Westley's team take on the Toffees at Dagenham & Redbridge's Chigwell Construction Stadium with kick-off at 7pm and Hammers fans will get their first chance to see exciting Montenegro international Haksabanovic in action. Meanwhile, Antonio has been working hard on his comeback from a hamstring injury and will continue his countdown to a first team return with a run-out against Everton.

West Ham United Season Ticket Holders and Claret Members can watch the match for free, simply take your 2016/17 Season Ticket Card or confirmation of your Season Ticket renewal or Membership with you to gain access through the turnstiles. Tickets for non-Season Ticket Holders and non-members are priced at £5 adults and £3 concessions and turnstiles open at 6pm. Supporters are advised to arrive early to avoid queues at the turnstiles.

Academy director Terry Westley said: "It's our first game, playing against a very good side in Everton who are the Premier League 2 champions from last season. They'll be strong, and we'll be strong too. "The more people that come along to Dagenham, the better chance we have to up our game and perform to our best to get off to the best possible start, so we hope there will be a big crowd "Michail Antonio and our new boy Sead Haksabanovic will be playing, so it's also a great chance for fans to see those players in action for the first time this season."

Hurst and Henry laud the signing of 'quality' Chicharito

Sir Geoff Hurst believes the signing of Chicharito is exactly what West Ham need to take the Club to the next level. Javier Hernandez became West Ham's fourth signing of the summer when he joined from Bayer Leverkusen and is poised to make his debut for the Club against Manchester United on Sunday.
The Mexican forward has impressed in training and Club legend Hurst, who scored 248 goals in his Irons career, reckons Chicharito and West Ham are a match made in heaven. The 1966 World Cup winner and hat-trick hero has also backed West Ham's new No17 to score at least 15 goals this season.
"West Ham have made good signings in my opinion," Hurst said at the 2017 FA & McDonald's Community Awards. "Hernandez is absolutely the right kind of striker for them. "He's got pace and if you have that you can always cause problems - 15 to 20 goals has got to be his goal this season.
"Any less than that and he should be disappointed. He's a quality player who has great movement and can score goals."

Hurst's sentiments have been echoed by Premier League legend Thierry Henry, who is expecting Chicharito to maintain his reputation of scoring important goals while at the London Stadium. The former Arsenal attacker recalls playing against Hernandez while the new West Ham signing was with Chivas and believes he will prove himself to be a great addition to Slaven Bilic's side. Henry told Sky Sports: "I played against him when I was at Barcelona and he was a young player at Chivas. I remember saying to Rafael Marquez: 'Who is that guy?' He said he was going to be a good player and it has turned out to be true. "He's an old-fashioned striker, in a way. He's lethal in the box and he can hold the ball. We've seen it since he was at Manchester United. It's not always easy to just come off the bench and score but he used to come up with some big goals at crucial moments. "It looks like a very, very good buy for West Ham. He knows the league and he has the experience of playing for two of the biggest teams in the world in Manchester United and Real Madrid.
"I wasn't surprised to see him join West Ham because they have a history of luring players like that to the club. They had Paolo Di Canio and more recently Dimitri Payet. so there is a bit of history there. "I think Chicharito will do well."

Paul Konchesky back at Chadwell Heath

Tuesday night presented a strange situation for former Hammer Paul Konchesky, who faced a number of West Ham youngsters he now mentors.
The ex-England left-back – who now turns out for Billericay Town – was part of the Isthmian League side which took on, and beat 3-1, a Hammers XI consisting of Academy players. And since the defender has recently returned to Chadwell Heath in a bid to ignite his coaching career, his opposition was full of familiar faces.
Konchesky has been assisting Academy Director Terry Westley in recent weeks and admitted it was a strange feeling going up against the youngsters he now helps to develop. "It was weird playing against some of those lads, but of course it was a great evening and for me, it's always nice coming up against the team that you support," said the 36-year-old "It doesn't matter what age they are – it's always a great thing to do. They're a good bunch of lads – some I know pretty well now – but ultimately it was great to beat them! "I'm helping Terry and Liam [Manning] out and really enjoying it at the moment. I'm going into Chadwell Heath, mentoring a couple of the players and if I can try and help bring one or two of those through and help them develop, then that's great. "They gave us a good test on the pitch, as well. First half, I think we were on top and the strength and power showed. "They are still young boys though and they're still developing, and that's what I'm trying to help with at the Academy. You never know when you're that age – I'm sure many have a great future ahead of them."

Konchesky, who was an Academy of Football talent himself years ago, made his senior debut at Charlton Athletic in 1997, before returning to east London and West Ham in 2005. Making 70 competitive appearances for the Hammers over two seasons with the Club, the two-time international left-back knows his way around Chadwell Heath and is glad to be back. "It's good for people like me, who have been at the Club and know the Club, to be around there again, so of course it's nice to be back at Chadwell Heath," he continued. "Jack Collison is obviously also working at the Academy and he was a player with West Ham for a long while. He knows the Club inside out and I think that's a big boost for the Academy. "You never know, with me also doing a bit there, there could be a few more going back there! Coaching is something I'm definitely looking at for after playing. I'd like to think I'm really going to get involved in that side of things and I want to help the young boys develop at the Club. "At the moment, I've still got a focus on playing for this year. I always say one more year, but who knows? We will see at the end of the season. I am going to play this season here at Billericay, but I'll think about things again then."

Konchesky missed just one league game in his debut West Ham season in 2005/06, helping Alan Pardew's men to their highest finish – ninth in the top flight – for four years. And with this summer's signings, the Barking-born man believes Slaven Bilic's team can be successful in the Premier League this term. "West Ham have made some great signings this summer. Hopefully they can gel quickly, build themselves as a team and get up and running with some good early results. If that happens, you never know where that can take you."

Westley focused on Friday's Everton opener

Terry Westley's focus immediately switched to Friday's Premier League 2 opener against Everton after the Academy of Football completed their pre-season preparations at Billericay Town on Tuesday. A young Hammers side were beaten 3-1 at the AGP Arena against a Town outfit containing former Hammers Paul Konchesky and Leo Chambers. But with the U23s set to take on last season's Premier League 2 champions later this week at Dagenham and Redbridge, Westley looked straight ahead to the campaign opener after Tuesday's defeat. He said: "It was great to be involved in the game at Billericay with all the work that's been done there, but our team will look a lot different to how it did on Tuesday. "I think when you change a team too much, it can be a too bigger test for some, and I think that showed. The end result was fragmented, and our performance. But sometimes, that's what pre-season is about. "There were no injuries though, and people are ready for selection on Friday. I'll now sit down with Liam [Manning] this week to discuss what we think the team ought to be. "It's our first game, playing against a very good side in Everton who are the Premier League 2 champions from last season. They'll be strong, and we'll be strong too. We're looking forward to it."

Isthmian League Billericay proved too strong for the Hammers ultimately, scoring through Billy Bricknell, new signing and former Arsenal and Liverpool man Jermaine Pennant, and Sam Deering.But playing against strong, senior players can only be positive for the development of the Academy's talents, according to the boss. Westley continued: "It was a good night and a good experience. For the younger players to play in front of 5,000 people, to play against a men's team which contained Paul Konchesky and Leo Chambers and Jermaine Pennant – that's great. "It was always going to be a tough game for our players. There were still a number of players who couldn't play for us tonight, some of the older ones.
"I have to say that Will Greenidge, who came on at right-back, he's only 15, and Josh Okotcha – a centre-back – they both did very well and have come away from the game in credit. "Grady Diangana, who did well and added a bit as a sub when he came on, and Martin Samuelsen first half – they were the ones who we looked at and impressed. Nathan Trott too. "It's a chance to get started on the right foot on Friday, and the more people that come, the better chance we have to up our game and perform to our best to get off to the best possible start."

Where's there's a Will, there's a way
Filed: Wednesday, 9th August 2017
By: Staff Writer

West Ham are being linked with a move for Portugal international William Carvalho. The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon star is set to be the target of a £25million bid by the Hammers, according to Simon Jones, writing for the Mail Online. And West Ham are said to be hopeful of pushing a deal through, adds Jones, despite several other Premier League clubs having previously failed to secure a deal for the highly-rated defensive midfielder. The Angola-born Carvalho, who moved to Europe with his family as a child and joined his current club at ther age of just 13 in 2005 is understood to have a release clause of £39.5million in his contract.

* Aston Villa are keen on signing West Ham winger Robert Snodgrass, according to various sources. The 29-year-old, who joined West Ham in January in a £10million switch from relegated Hull City is being linked with a loan move to Villa Park.

* Sofiane Feghouli remains a West Ham player despite having agreed terms with Turkish club Galatasary. Regardless, the Algerian winger is still expected to complete his move to the Super Lig ahead of the start of the new season.

* Former Ajax youth star Ezra Walian has joined West Ham on trial. The 19-year-old forward, who represents Indonesia at international level was released by Ajax at the end of last season and is currrently a free agent.

Romelu Lukaku's amazing record against West Ham
By Adam Bate
Last Updated: 09/08/17 1:47pm

Romelu Lukaku will make his Premier League debut for Manchester United on Sunday and he will fancy his chances of marking it with a goal given his record against opponents West Ham…

Much is expected of Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United following his £90m switch from Everton and he will be hoping for a fast start to life at Old Trafford. The good news for the 24-year-old striker is that he could not have picked a better opening fixture than West Ham at home. The Belgian already boasts a formidable record against Sunday's opponents.

Although Lukaku failed to find the net against the Irons in his two matches against them when on loan at West Brom, he enjoyed an astonishing scoring sequence against them during his time at Everon. In fact, Lukaku scored in his first nine appearances for Everton against West Ham, his goals directly earning nine Premier League points for his side.

The run began with a late winner on his Everton debut in 2013, and he was knocked unconscious in the process of scoring in a 3-2 win. "I remember nothing about it," Lukaku admitted at the time. "I did not even know I had scored. That was the first thing I asked the doc. I said, 'Who scored?' He said, 'You.'" But West Ham fans will not forget his knack for crucial late goals.

In the reverse fixture at Goodison Park in 2014, Lukaku grabbed the only goal of the game in the 81st minute. The following year there was a last-gasp equaliser in an FA Cup tie. He also scored in extra-time of the replay and then finished that season by scoring a stoppage-time winner in a 2-1 victory over the Hammers in May.

Not that Lukaku has always had it his own way. Despite extending his scoring sequence against West Ham to eight matches with the opener at Goodison Park in March 2016, a missed penalty when two goals up proved costly. Everton went on to surrender the lead and lose 3-2. Even so, he was back on the scoresheet in a 2-0 home win last October.

Romelu Lukaku scored against West Ham on nine of the 10 occasions he faced them in an Everton shirt. He also has four assists against the Irons.
Lukaku's streak only came to an end in a goalless draw at the London Stadium in April. West Ham were particularly vigilant. "He has got a good record against us, and we probably haven't defended as well against him as we could have done in games gone by," said James Collins beforehand. "Physically, he has got everything, he is big, strong and he can finish."

That shut out owed much to the efforts of Winston Reid and he is likely to be the man asked to mark Lukaku again at Old Trafford. Given the team's earlier struggles against the striker, Reid was pretty blunt about what is required to keep Lukaku at bay when explaining the long-awaited clean sheet afterwards. "Don't let him turn," said the centre-back.

"If he's not going to turn then he is not going to score, is he? It'd be pretty difficult. We wanted to try and keep him away from the goal. I know it's pretty boring but it's pretty simple I guess. We just had to be on him in the box and make sure he couldn't turn."

Nothing too complex then but is it easier said than done? It certainly has been on the last five occasions that West Ham have faced Lukaku on their travels. Bookmakers Sky Bet rate the forward as an 8/13 on chance to score on his Manchester United debut. Lukaku's history against the Hammers would suggest that he is odds-on for a very good reason.

West Ham's Javier Hernandez may not celebrate at Man Utd
Last Updated: 09/08/17 6:00pm

West Ham striker Javier Hernandez admits he does not know if he will celebrate a debut goal against former club Manchester United. The 29-year-old joined the Hammers for £16m from Bayer Leverkusen this summer, two years after he left United for the Bundesliga side, and finds himself facing his old team at Old Trafford on Sunday. Hernandez, who scored 59 goals in his time in Manchester, says he will have a tough decision to make if he manages to open his West Ham account in their opening game, live on Sky Sports Premier League. "I don't know if I will celebrate if I score at Old Trafford," he said.
"It's my old club, my old fans, my old stadium but it'll be my first goal for West Ham. "I am not thinking about the celebration, I just want to have the chance to start and get my team the result. "I am very happy and glad, it's the best way to come back and open at Old Trafford. "I am a Hammer, a West Ham player, I want to do even better than I did in Manchester."
Hernandez found his first-team options limited during his final days at United and even spent a season on loan at Real Madrid in an attempt to play more football. He left for Leverkusen in 2015 - with current United boss Jose Mourinho since insisting he would never have allowed the Mexico international to leave had he been in charge - but Hernandez says he does not rue his decision. "I never have regretted leaving Manchester United," he said. "I had some great experiences there and it helped me when I did move on."
Hernandez is one of a number of new arrivals at the London Stadium as Slaven Bilic looks to build a squad capable of improving on the 11th-placed finish last season. Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart has joined on a season-long loan while his former team-mate at the Etihad Stadium, Pablo Zabaleta, has also come in. The club broke their transfer record to bring in Stoke's Marko Arnautovic, with midfielder Sead Haksabanovic signing from Halmstads earlier this week. Hernandez is a big fan of Hart and believes the new crop can help West Ham qualify for continental competition. The European spots are the main goal for us this season. No doubt," he added. "Joe Hart is a great lad, a great professional. He always gives 100 per cent on the training ground. "He has been in the national team for so long, playing in the Champions League, he is a great goalkeeper."

By Blind Hammer 9 Aug 2017 at 08:00

Blind Hammer is puzzled about Bilic's apparent reluctance to address defensive weaknesses.

Readers of my posts here will be familiar with my concentration on the defensive fragilities of West Ham. This is the 3rd post this summer and the 6th since last year which has tried to highlight this as an issue. There is a risk that I sound like a broken record, but the point has to be hammered home. Like all on here I love West Ham. However I am baffled by the priorities and squad analysis which is highlighted by both Bilic and the Board.

First of all broken record time. 6 weeks ago I flatly and completely disagreed with the publicly stated analysis produced by the club hierarchy that West Ham flirted with relegation because they did not have sufficient strikers last season. I fail to see how any detailed analysis of last season can conclude this. West Ham was plunged into the relegation mire because we could not defend. This was the sad and unpalatable fact. Actually West Ham conceded more points from winning positions than any other team. This was the standout weakness.

Certainly there were other problems. Bilic admitted problems with intensity, commentators criticised fitness and athleticism, and there was undeniably a problem with finding a fit striker to play up front.

Despite these issues it was overwhelmingly the defence which nearly dragged us into the relegation mire. Although we eventually finished 11th, this disguised the real position. In a compressed lower table we were, like many other clubs, in the end only a few points away from the relegation trapdoor. We were certainly far closer to the relegation fight than any realistic chance of challenging the top 7.

In actual fact there were two questions with our defensive performances. The first was that we managed to regularly concede goals against competition from teams around and below us. For example we conceded a lead against Middlesbrough at home, a performance remarkable given Middlesbrough's inability to score against most of the rest of the PL. The Watford defeat at home was particularly demoralising for the team, with promising attacking play ending up with us being hammered with 4 goals at the other end.

In addition, on most occasions we simply could not live, defensively, with top 6 teams either at home or way. The problem for our fan base is that in general we started to approach games against Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool with an element of fear and apprehension. Expecting a rout at home by 4 or more goals certainly did not help adjust to the new London Stadium.

However I am personally convinced that these terrible defensive performances have nothing whatsoever to do with playing at the London Stadium. The fact is that ever since January of 2016 we have had a leaky defence. The final year at the Boleyn was exciting but we were seeping goals all over the place. I produced an analysis last year to show how we were conceding on average 2 goals a game in the latter half of that season starting with the famous Everton away win during which, even there, we conceded 2 goals. We should remember that in our last two games at the Boleyn alone, despite the excitement of the Manchester United game, we conceded 6 goals, losing 1-4 to Swansea.

So this is a problem which has beset our team for at least 18 months. We go on quite long unwelcome runs during which we on average concede at least 2 goals a game, at times last season we were averaging a 3 goal deficit every game. There is no way on earth a side can plan for success with this defensive record. If a team has to score 3 goals on average to win, or 2 to gain a point we will be in trouble. This will be the case whatever Stella attackers we bring to the club, welcome though they be, If we had Namer, Ronaldo Messy and so on we would struggle if we continued to concede at this rate.

Thankfully, for our survival last season, Bilic adjusted to this problem. The most productive and successful tactic he deployed was to play 3 centre backs. Although this system was tried and failed in the away games against Chelsea and Manchester City early in the season it was deployed with much more success, with Collins as a component in the latter parts of the season. This was the bedrock which underpinned the famous win against Tottenham. It was also the method underlying the shut out of Everton's Romelu Lukaku to finally stop his scoring run against us. These were important not just for morale, but the eventual critical points they provided us with. Our points total was helped by the away win at Burnley but as Bilic said at the time it might have been very different if the pressure had been on to get a result on that final day.

This makes it all the more baffling is that, as far as I can see, all the club recruitment and pre-season preparation has revolved around returning to the failed 4 at the back formation which has created so many problems. There is only limited evidence that the club has got to grips with this over the summer. Weaknesses in the Goalkeeping and right back position have been addressed. However the critical central part of our defence is completely unrefreshed and actually denuded. We have a suspect central defensive section which is just as much injury prone as our striking section. Collins, Obonna, Reid, and Fonte all have significant injury records. If we are to cover 3 positions at the back it seems irresponsible to me to rely on 4 defenders, none of which have managed to complete a season in recent history.

In comparison and in contrast we have 3 or possibly 4 striking options to cover essentially 1 loan striking position in our normal formation. Admittedly our striking options are injury prone but the same can be said for our defensive options.

It stretches my credibility that we are really intending to rely on only 4 central defenders with inconsistent fitness to cover 3 critical positions in our squad. With our present line up it will, I predict, be inevitable that we will be playing people out of position in central defence to fill the gaps.

This seems a monumental gamble to me. Yet this is a gamble that the club seem oblivious to. 2 of our brightest young guns, Burke and Oxford, have been sent out on loan, with only the promising 18 year old Rice to backup what looks largely like an aging quartet with suspect pace.

Most of you will have the advantage over me in reviewing pre-season performances. I have not been able to access any radio or audio commentaries. We should also be aware that famously pre-season performances may not be a guide to actual Premier League performance. Despite this it appears, from reports, that at no time have we reverted to 3 at the back in our pre-season preparation. I find this baffling given that the only time we looked secure last season was when we deployed this formation.

Despite the unreliability of pre-season friendlies it does not look like that we have achieved any defensive solidity against even lesser opposition. Conceding 3 in a lack lustre display against Manchester City was wearyingly predictable but surely it was not part of the plan for a largely first choice defence to concede 3 goals a few days earlier against the German equivalent of Forest Green Rovers?

Finally and in conclusion I do not insist that West Ham have to play 3 at the back. If we can play 4 at the back and achieve successful defensive solidity I will be personally delighted and race onto this site to eat humble pie. However what I do insist on is that West Ham should at the very least prepare in their squad and team formations for the option of playing 3 at the back, given the critical role this has achieved with past performances. There seems limited evidence that this has achieved sufficient priority in either squad development or the pre-season friendlies. In our first game we will face the agent of multiple previous goals conceded and defeats in the shape of Romelu Lukaku. We overcame his goalscoring prowess with the Payet inspired comeback in 2016. Apart from this The only occasion in 9 attempts that we looked as if we could cope with his threat was when we played 3 at the back against Everton in our home fixture last season. Our pre-season does not seem to have learnt any of these lessons.

Time will tell.


David Griffith

West Ham take Ezra Walian on loan as former Ajax youth star looks to impress in English football
Ezra Walian was released by Ajax this summer and is looking to move to England
West Ham have had the former youth star on trial at the club this summer
Forward has also been invited to Bolton and Hull as he looks for a new club
Meanwhile, West Ham could sell midfielder Robert Snodgrass to Aston Villa
By Simon Jones for MailOnline
PUBLISHED: 13:31 BST, 9 August 2017 | UPDATED: 13:31 BST, 9 August 2017

West Ham have been giving a trial to former Jong Ajax forward Ezra Walian. The 19-year-old can play as a central striker or on either wing and is a free agent after his contract ran out at the end of June. He scored 11 goals in 22 games for Jong Ajax last season. Born in Amsterdam, Walian represented Holland at U19 level but is now an Indonesia international and has also been invited to Bolton Wanderers and Hull City for training.

Meanwhile, West Ham could see Robert Snodgrass leave this summer, with Aston Villa eyeing a move for the midfielder. He only joined last season, but the Hammers are open to offers for the 29-year-old Scotland international.

Aston Villa eyeing move for Robert Snodgrass with West Ham open to offers for midfielder
29-year-old midfielder Robert Snodgrass only joined West Ham last season
However, the Hammers are open to offers for the Scotland international
Aston Villa would have to sign him on an initial loan with view to permanent deal
Villa are also among the clubs to hold an interest in striker Jordan Rhodes
By Simon Jones for MailOnline
PUBLISHED: 12:52 BST, 9 August 2017 | UPDATED: 12:52 BST, 9 August 2017

Aston Villa are keen on bringing in West Ham midfielder Robert Snodgrass this summer. The 29-year-old only joined West Ham last season but they are open to offers for the Scotland international. Villa, however, would need to sign him on an initial loan with view to a permanent deal owing to financial fair play implications The left-footed midfielder failed to make a major impact at West Ham last campaign, making just 15 appearances, with eight of those coming from the bench. Snodgrass also failed to score for the Hammers following his £10.2million move from Hull back in January.

Has the new John Terry, Declan Rice, played his way into the Slaven Bilic's side at West Ham?
Damien Lucas

There have not been many positives to take from West Ham United's pre-season matches. Slaven Bilic's side have looked unfit and out of form during the build up to the new Premier League season. The last two games saw the Hammers draw 3-3 with a German fourth tier team before a 3-0 hiding at the hands of Manchester City which could have been many more. While results don't matter in pre-season, the club's only win has come against Fulham 2-1.

The club's new signings Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez have been slowly bedding in. But it is academy graduate Declan Rice who has been the biggest positive. West Ham's defence is ageing with Jose Fonte and James Collins turning 34 this season and Zabaleta turning 33 while Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna both have questionable injury records too. So the emergence of the 18-year-old Rice - who has already been called up by Ireland to train with Martin O'Neill's first team squad - has come at the perfect time.

While the equally promising and arguably more talented Reece Oxford has been shipped out on loan to Germany, Rice, a year below him has been included in Bilic's plans for the first team. And it is easy to see why. Amid all the mediocrity on show from West Ham against Manchester City Rice was the standout player. Reading the game, showing confidence, strength, determination, leadership and a will to win Rice was nothing short of a revelation.
Whisper it quietly because he is not the most popular figure in East London but the young Irishman has the hallmarks of another former West Ham academy product.... one John Terry. Terry left for Chelsea at the age of 14 to play with his friends. But Rice has come in the other direction and is here to stay. Don't be surprised if he is a first team regular by Christmas.


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