WHO Poll
Q: 2022 Summer Transfer Window - How many 1st team players will we sign before August 6th
a. None as Sullivan will wait until the last week before he gets his scattergun out the cupboard
b. A couple of freebies paraded as superstars, usual hype to follow
c. I'm more optimistic as surely they know we need to strengthen, 3-4 with decent money spent.
d. Who gives a toss as we have a great squad already, I've already ordered the new replica kit, socks and all and can't wait to wear it at our first game, down the pub of course, I bleed claret & blue

Irish Hammer 12:27 Fri Sep 24
Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
West Ham: 'Declan Rice and Michail Antonio kept asking if I was going to come on. They didn't have to do that' – The Athletic

Dapo Afolayan is discussing the moments leading up to his first-team debut for West Ham United. It dawns on him that what will remain uppermost in his memory is the seal of approval he received from his team-mates before he stepped onto the field.

In January, manager David Moyes handed first-team debuts to Afolayan, Jamal Baptiste and Nathan Trott in their FA Cup fourth-round win over Doncaster Rovers. It meant eight academy graduates had played for the first team for the first time under Moyes in his second spell as manager. For Afolayan, his chances of making an appearance were boosted when two senior pros advocated for his introduction.

“When me and Jamal were warming up, we were both saying how nervous we felt,” Afolayan tells The Athletic. “But we were 3-0 up and that’s when it started to kick in that this could be happening. When I was warming up, Kevin Nolan called me to come back to the bench. But what was really nice about it is Declan Rice and Michail Antonio kept asking Kev if I was going to come on. They didn’t have to do that and it was nice of them to ask him.

“Not only did I make my debut but I also scored. It’s a great dressing room and everyone congratulated me after the game. Dec knew how far I’d come to get to that point. I’ve known him since I was 10. Darren Randolph and Michail were also happy for me. It’s something I’ll always remember.”

Afolayan, who now plays for League One side Bolton Wanderers, scored with his first touch.

Almost 24 hours before, the 24-year-old had started the under 23s’ 2-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. He had been in good form for Dmitri Halajko’s side, having scored in four consecutive games against Derby County, Liverpool, Leicester City and Manchester United. Afolayan was therefore a bit surprised when he was brought off past the hour mark, only to be overwhelmed with excitement when Nolan told him why.

“It got to a point where I didn’t think I’d make my debut for West Ham,” he says. “So to play as many minutes as I did and score was very special for me and my family.

“The night before in the game against Tottenham, at half-time I was told to keep going and give it my all for the next 15 minutes. Then I came off and Nolan said to me, ‘Well done tonight, you’ll be on the bench tomorrow — make sure you arrive at the stadium at 11am’. That’s how I found out. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was so excited.

“Dmitri played a massive role in me getting my career back on track. He’s a great coach and the little exposure I got has helped me loads in my development.”

Afolayan started out in Chelsea’s youth team, playing alongside Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Chris Mepham for the club’s under-10 side. A switch to Canada to play for Toronto FC’s academy came after a new job opportunity for Afolayan’s mother, and he joined West Ham in February 2018 from non-League side Solihull Moors. His three years at the club included loans at Mansfield Town and Oldham Athletic and he scored nine times in 36 appearances for the under-23s.

Despite West Ham’s attacking options being threadbare in January following Sebastien Haller’s departure to Ajax, Afolayan joined Bolton on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. The winger was keen to get regular game time and the possibility of helping Bolton win promotion to League One was too good of an opportunity to turn down.

“I’m a realistic person and having been at the club for three years and not being as close to the first team as I needed to be, I came to a point in my head where I knew I had to look elsewhere to get first-team football,” says Afolayan.

Bolton, West Ham
Afolayan celebrates after scoring against Ipswich last weekend (Photo: Andrew Kearns – CameraSport via Getty Images)
“Towards the end of the window it became clear to me that Bolton were interested. Once I heard that I said to my dad and my agent that it would be good to get something sorted. The manager, Ian Evatt, phoned and said where he wanted me to play and his vision for the club. It was pretty much straightforward from there.”

Afolayan, however, canvassed the opinions of close friends and first-team coach Nolan, who played for Bolton for 10 years, before leaving West Ham.

“Nolan is great with the academy,” says Afolayan. “He takes a keen interest in the young lads who go over and train with the first team. He helps them get integrated into sessions and he always gives us tips. It’s something that you don’t always get at clubs but ever since Moyes returned to the job he’s made sure at least one member of staff is at the games. Even players like Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop would always give me advice about things they wouldn’t like a striker or an attacker to do to them.

“When I was younger I remember watching Kev play for Bolton, plus Jay-Jay Okocha and Nicolas Anelka. I spoke to Kev before I joined and he reminded me about how big of a club it is. It’s nice people at West Ham were so helpful because you don’t always get that family environment at other clubs.”

During his loan spell at Bolton, Afolayan made 21 appearances and scored his first goal against Crawley Town when they clinched promotion to League One.

He signed a three-year deal in the summer and has scored four league goals in seven appearances, including two in their recent 5-2 win over Ipswich Town in which he was also the subject of “discriminatory and hateful comments” in a video that appeared to have been filmed by an Ipswich fan. Ipswich are conducting a “thorough investigation” and reported the incident to police, while Bolton said they were “disgusted” by the video and offered Afolayan their full support.

He also happens to be the most fouled player in League One so far this season, with 26 fouls won. Afolayan, though, is relishing playing in the third tier and thinks more young players should challenge themselves to play outside “their comfort zone”.

“When I think back to when I was playing under-23s football I think some clubs need to do more,” he says. “As a young player when you’re at a big club it’s easy to get caught up in it and get comfortable.

“Players need to test themselves, get out of their comfort zone and play regular football that means something. It’s more rewarding. There are clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City where young players are earning a lot of money. So there’s no real incentive for them to leave their comfort zone, especially if they haven’t had the taste for men’s football. They’ll just think they’ll keep earning all that money but it’s not always the case.

“I always challenge myself and a lot of young players need to do that a lot more. The fans at Bolton have been patient with me and to win promotion with this team was special.

“After we beat Crawley we got back to Bolton at 1am and there were about 2,000 fans waiting for us. It was unbelievable. We played Blackburn and MK Dons in pre-season friendlies and the atmosphere was amazing. I appreciate stuff like that a lot more now and every time I go out on the field I want to give them something to cheer about.”

Replies - Newest Posts First (Show In Chronological Order)

Fifth Column 11:12 Wed Oct 6
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
The BBC video was really interesting and explains that he basically stopped playing at Academy level at 14 to concentrate on his studies and then went to uni and then went to us at 21. So he missed a lot of high level coaching input. That means he may not achieve his potential ever or it may mean he'll be a late developer. He certainly seems to have a good head on his shoulders.

Syd Puddefoot 4:22 Tue Oct 5
Re: Harrison Ashby - Another Academy Lad
Seems like a level headed clever sort of chap.


essexmaniacinexile 7:40 Sun Oct 3
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Nice little piece on Football Focus yesterday talking about his career.

terry-h 1:36 Sun Oct 3
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Shame Moyes let this kid go. I saw his 7th goal of the season for Bolton on the Quest channel tonight and he took it brilliantly.
He looks well able to have been Antonio's back up this season.

Cheezey Bell-End 12:51 Sat Sep 25
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
He was about 21 when he joined us. Not really an academy lad.

On The Ball 11:29 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
I had no idea - I just assumed he was 21 or so.

Hopefully he'll turn out to be great - but I suspect if he does he'll be another Stanislas who needs to play in the lower divisions for several seasons before he makes the top. That isn't meant to be a criticism.

He had bugger all chances for us really, but that'll be because Moyes didn't think he was good enough.

onsideman 11:22 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
In fairness otb I didnt realise he was that old, although I now see he was only 24 a couple of weeks ago. I'm not sure he had too many chances for us but I wish him well

On The Ball 10:32 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
onsideman 7:58 Fri Sep 24

Because he's 24. How long do you persist? That's really getting on.

gph 8:42 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Another good'un.

Thanks, Irish.

gph 8:40 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Perhaps Nolan likes a drink or two, I don't know.

But it's clear that some of the rumours that made out he was a useless piss-head are way off the mark. He's an asset to the club.

onsideman 7:58 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Pleased for this kid. Couldn't really understand why we elected to sell rather than loan out again. I think he'll end up playing consistently at a level higher than League 1

Iron Duke 2:40 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
One for the future maybe, but not with us. Maybe at Bolton.

Vexed 2:31 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Similar names innit. Easy mistake to make.

Irish Hammer 2:18 Fri Sep 24
Re: Dapo Afolayan - Another Academy Lad
Thanks to the Mod who fixed the mess I made of this earlier

the exile 1:58 Fri Sep 24
Re: Harrison Ashby - Another Academy Lad
Nice articles. Cheers Irish.

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