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Q: 2021/22 What competition should we prioritise this season?
a. The league is our bread & butter, so this year let's have a club sandwich
b. We're owed an FA Cup after Gerrard nicked our last one in 06, our name's on it in 22
c. A bye to the League Cup 3rd round gives us a good start, let's make it count
d. The Europa is our best ticket to the Champions League, this is the one
e. What's wrong with you, let's do the lot, has the quadruple ever been done

Irish Hammer 12:36 Thu Aug 12
The futures bright, the futures The Academy
A good read, respect to all the brilliant coaches we have behind the scenes 👏🏼

A striker named after Thierry Henry and a French midfielder who idolises Makelele: West Ham’s new crop of academy players

It is not unusual for a parent to get emotional and scream for joy when their child fulfils a dream. This is exactly how Katherine Phillips felt when her son Thierry Nevers completed his move to West Ham United.

“The day the club announced Thierry had signed I was at home, I put on Sky Sports News and there it was on the ticker, ‘Thierry Nevers joins West Ham United’,” she tells The Athletic. “I screamed the place down. One of my slippers went one way, one went the other way. I was going crazy.

“I recorded it and I kept playing it over and over. Then it dawned on me, ‘Wow, he’s actually joined West Ham‘. I uploaded the picture on Facebook and I received so many messages. When he was doing his interview for the club, it felt like it was my son’s first day at primary school in his new school uniform. It was a special moment and a day I’ll never forget.”

Nevers joined West Ham on a three-year deal, with the option of a further year, having rejected a new contract at Championship side Reading. Since arriving in May, the 19-year-old has integrated well into the team — and scored his first hat-trick for the club in the under-23s’ emphatic 5-1 win over Southend United. Modest as ever, in his post-match interview, the young forward thanked the travelling fans and his team-mates.

Nevers’ parents and grandmother were in attendance for his debut in the 2-1 loss at Ebbsfleet United. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and injuries, it was the first time they had been able to watch him live in two and a half years.

The former Reading trainee was named after ex-Arsenal forward Thierry Henry, although Phillips was initially confused when her brother suggested the name.

“My brother and I were watching an Arsenal game at our mum’s house,” she recalls. “My brother said, ‘Why don’t you name him after the big man?’ And I said, ‘Who?’ His response was, ‘The No 14 at Arsenal’. I told my brother, ‘But his name is Henry’. He burst out laughing and says, ‘No, that’s his surname’. Then he explained to me that the players have their surnames on the back of their jerseys. So I asked my brother what his first name was and he said, ‘It’s Thierry’. And I loved the name.”

Nevers spent nine years at Reading and was highly regarded by coaches. He scored six goals in 14 matches in the 2019-20 season and three goals in nine league appearances for the under-23s last season. In January 2020, then 17, Nevers signed his first professional contract until the summer of 2021. He scored a brilliant solo goal against Swansea City in September 2019 — and one month prior Nevers was included in the first-team squad for Reading’s Carabao Cup tie against Plymouth Argyle.

“From a young age Thierry has always been interested in football,” says Phillips. “When he was seven that’s when I really started to notice his passion. He played for a Sunday League team called Pumas and I remember being on the sidelines for one of his games and someone said to me, ‘Your boy has something about him’. He would always have a ball at his feet. He could be on the phone and doing keep-ups or trying to nutmeg someone if they walked past.

“When he was 10 I got a call from Lewis Goater, who was a scout at Reading. And he told me he’d spoken to the Pumas coach and that Reading wanted to invite Thierry for a six-week trial. But after three weeks they wanted to sign him. We wanted Thierry to transition slowly — and mainly out of loyalty to Pumas — we asked if he could continue to play for them and still train with Reading. They agreed to it and when Thierry was 11, that’s when he was fully focused on Reading.”

Last season manager David Moyes and first-team coach Paul Nevin attended the under-23s’ 3-1 win over Southend United in the EFL Trophy. Mipo Odubeko impressed by scoring twice but Moyes and Nevin were unable to attend the recent 5-1 win over Southend due to the first team’s pre-season friendly at Celtic. With the club yet to sign a forward, and Odubeko entering the last year of his contract, Nevers could receive an opportunity with the first team in the not-too-distant future.

Every child has a footballer they idolise growing up and Nevers had the opportunity to watch his idol live on his 16th birthday.

“When Thierry was at infant school, at the end of the term they would give out different awards: best achievements, best sportsman, best reading and best spelling,” says Phillips. “Thierry received the best sportsman award. I’ve collected all his trophies and it’s probably the biggest one I have. When I was younger I was good at athletics, mainly the 200m race, and his dad competed in the 400m nationals for Jamaica — so Thierry gets it from us!

“He looked up to Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. When Thierry was 16 we went to Madrid for his birthday and his dad managed to get tickets for Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid. Ronaldo scored and Thierry went crazy. Having the opportunity to go on that trip definitely inspired and motivated him.”

The under-23s have upcoming friendlies against Crawley Town, Aldershot Town and Huddersfield. Phillips has already warned her neighbour what will happen the moment she sees her son on TV.

“At work they’ve known about him since I started working for the company in 2015,” she says. “When he joined West Ham I told them straight away. My neighbour has two sons who are at Reading and they heard about Thierry joining West Ham before I had the chance to tell them. I’ve told my neighbour the day I see Thierry play live on TV I’m going to run outside and scream at the top of my lungs. I’m so proud of him.”

As well as Nevers, Armstrong Oko-Flex and Pierre Ekwah Elimby were the other summer arrivals from Celtic and Chelsea respectively. The latter turned down a one-year contract extension at Chelsea in search of more opportunities. The 19-year-old was on trial at West Ham for two weeks during the latter stages of last season and scored in the under-23s’ 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

Ekwah-Elimby has joined West Ham from Chelsea (Photo: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)
Having impressed staff behind the scenes, Ekwah Elimby signed a three-year deal, with the option to extend for a further year. His first training session was with a mixture of under-23 and first-team players. Having caught the eye, Ekwah Elimby was told he would be training with the first team the following day. Following the session, he waited for Moyes to finish all his meetings before walking into his office and thanking the Scotsman for giving him a chance.

The midfielder spent three years at the highly renowned national academy INF Clairefontaine, alma mater to Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and Kylian Mbappe. Ekwah Elimby has represented France at under-16 level and cites ex-Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele as his idol.

Oko-Flex was part of the under-23s’ one-week training camp in Loughborough and started the first team’s pre-season friendlies against Leyton Orient and Reading. He scored his first goal for the club in the dying stages of the 6-2 win at Celtic. The 19-year-old, who was born in the Republic of Ireland, joined West Ham on a two-year contract, with the option to extend by a further year. He is capable of playing on both flanks but has operated on the left so far.

In his introductory interview with West Ham’s in-house media, the attacking midfielder spoke about how he hopes to excite the supporters. “I’m very excited to get started here,” said Oko-Flex. “There are a lot of positives around West Ham and it’s just a great club to be at right now. I like to be direct, take on players, and work hard for the team and myself as well.”

The academy have made great strides under the guidance of academy director Ricky Martin, under-23s manager Dmitri Halajko and under-18s lead coach Kevin Keen — and this upcoming season could prove to be their most rewarding yet.

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Mr Kenzo 2:33 Thu Aug 12
Re: The futures bright, the futures The Academy
*The academy have made great strides under the guidance of academy director Ricky Martin*

He Bangs, He Bangs
Oh Baby
He Moves, He Moves
I Go crazy
Cause he looks like a flower but he stings like a bee
Like every bloke in History

chim chim cha boo 1:23 Thu Aug 12
Re: The futures bright, the futures The Academy
Cheers Irish but surely the title of this thread is wrong?

It should read 'The future's tight'?

Sven Roeder 12:56 Thu Aug 12
Re: The futures bright, the futures The Academy
Thanks Irish, enjoying the articles

If I was Thierry (12th of) NEVERS I probably would have told my Mum before I signed for West Ham.

Thanks Irish 12:51 Thu Aug 12
Re: The futures bright, the futures The Academy
Thanks Irish

southbankbornnbred 12:43 Thu Aug 12
Re: The futures bright, the futures The Academy
We see these features every season - and, Rice aside (we picked him up after Chelsea made the mistake of letting him go), we haven't produced a top-class kid since Noble who is now in his last season for us.

The academy needs to up its game. It has actually been quite poor for a while. Players like Burke, Oxford and Browne had the raw talent to be top-class players - but we're not getting these kids over the line in the way that we were two decades ago.

In 2015/16 there was a lot of fuss about Oxford, Pask, Powell, Burke, Neufville and Browne. Where are they now?

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