This was impressive. Any 3-0 result is, obviously, but West Ham are a good team, and they earned their place in the u18s Premier League top tier with some notable performances in the southern division. Despite this, they never really stood a chance and they were blown away at the CFA as Wilcox’s men systematically dismantled them in front of a strong turnout. It was so one-sided that Grimshaw in goal barely had a touch, making just the one save throughout the entire 90 – and even them it was to comfortably turn a shot from distance around his left post. Other than that it was one way traffic and the ball rarely left the opposition’s half as Brahim carried on the sparkling, majestic form he showed in the FA Youth Cup semi-final on Monday, teasing and terrifying West Ham’s defenders with his usual trademark magic.
After a period of sustained pressure the opening goal came from the spot, and it was Paolo Fernandes who won it. The young Spanish winger, making his first start in a while, cut in from the right hand side and left the full-back for dead before he was scythed down as he prepared to pull the trigger. Nmecha stepped up and coolly slotted home. There was a few more good chances to extend the lead, Nmecha somehow firing at the keeper from three yards, and Brahim, too, causing all kinds of mayhem in their box with some mazy runs, but it remained 1-0 at half-time.
The second came not long into the second 45, and it was a goal of the season contender. Some determined midfield work by Davenport and Brahim saw the ball roll loose to Kongolo, and he brilliantly turned before unleashing an incredible 30 yard curler into the top right hand corner. It was a stunning strike, and just rewards for another powerful display from the Dutch midfielder. The third came not long after, and it was Nmecha yet again as he grabbed his 19th in just 20 u18s starts. It was brilliantly worked too, with the forward exchanging three one-twos with Will Patching before finding himself on the receiving end of a perfectly weighted chipped through ball. He did the rest expertly, calmly placing it past the onrushing keeper into the bottom corner.
On another day it could’ve been vastly more, but City’s finishing was for once uncharacteristically wayward. It was an impressive runout nonetheless, and the technique on show was magnificent at times. Davenport was once again exceptional. The young holding midfielder, a City fan too, is unbelievably confident on the ball and his positional sense is remarkable. There’s clearly a long way to go, but think De Jong with Busquets’ intelligence. He’s some player – a standout for the u18s this year and his development will be hugely interesting.
Brahim was Brahim. Starting in his favoured number 10 he was magnificent, he was everywhere – dictating play from deep, or driving right a the heart of West Ham’s defence whenever he could. He was irrepressible. Kongolo was the legs either side of them, and yet again he put in a display full of power, energy and no little skill. His goal was yet further proof that he’s adding a hugely useful attacking element to his game, and if he continues his current trajectory he’s going to be some force in the future. Out wide Nemane and Fernandes both excelled, causing numerous problems with their quick, direct running, and Nmecha too had a fine game, even if his finishing was a little more erratic than normal, despite grabbing two. He held the ball up impressively and he was the focal point for most of the attacks that we built.
Defensively we had little to do, but any West Ham forays forward were expertly dealt with by Kigbu and Humphreys at the heart of defence. Humphreys was strong, composed and a rock at the back and Kigbu alongside him was equally dominant. He played some beautiful passes too, switching play with the odd 40 yard ball to the right wing. Latibeaudiere, an u16 central defender, stepped in at left-back with injuries taking their toll, yet he was excellent despite being out of position. He never once looked flustered, and like Bullock on the other side, he got forward well when he could.
Patching came on and looked good, grabbing a lovely little assist for Nmecha’s second, and Jadon Sancho, another u16s regular, earned another 30 minutes runout after playing 45 minutes for the u16s on another pitch inside the CFA. The u16s won again, of course, by just the eight goals. 8-0. Incredible numbers from an incredible team. The u18s couldn’t quite match that score, understandably, but it was yet another scincillating team performance in a season that’s getting stronger by the minute. The u18s are looking favourites to win the overall u18s Premier League with 3 wins from 3 so far, with only four more games to play, and they’ve reached the FA Youth Cup Final too.
When you consider that the likes of Buckley, Adarabioyo, Garcia, Duhaney, Sarmiento and more weren’t involved today too, and all eligible, then it’s even more encouraging. This really is a golden generation of talent we have. The potential is limitless with some of these starlets, and there’s even more learning their trade in the age groups around them. If we give them the platform they deserve, and Guardiola hopefully will, then this could be huge for the club. He understands and appreciates that a truly great team tends to have a strong home grown core of players that intrinsically care about where they’ve come from, and the potential is there for a whole host of our own players to be integrated over the coming years, fulfilling those roles. It could be special – fingers crossed that this ride turns out to be as exciting as it should be.