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West Ham United: A Look at the Forgotten Prospects from Their Academy

Tony WhiteContributor IINovember 13, 2012

West Ham United: A Look at the Forgotten Prospects from Their Academy

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    West Ham United's youth academy is one of the most famous in England. It has produced future England stars such as Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard. Coming through the ranks at Upton Park is often a sign that you are destined for great things, if not a middling career at a decent club.

    You only have to look at some of the biggest teams in England to see how they have profited from West Ham's youth set-up:

    Chelsea: Frank Lampard, John Terry

    Manchester United: Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand

    Tottenham: Jermain Defoe (formerly from Charlton's academy)

    Liverpool: Glen Johnson

    However, not every graduate can go on to bigger and better things. For every Lampard, there is a Josh Payne. Let's take a walk through recent history at the youngsters who didn't quite make the grade.

Zavon Hines

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    Zavon Hines is a striker of Jamaican origin who rose through the ranks in the academy with a reputation of scoring goals of quality in mass quantity. When he burst through the ranks, many expected him to play off Carlton Cole and bag goals.

    Throughout his short career with the first team, Hines managed to score three goals in all competitions over three years of first-team appearances. he just couldn't find the strength and skill needed to beat older and more experienced defenders.

    Despite glowing praise and many well wishes, Zavon Hines just couldn't make that step up to the next level and was let go after refusing a new contract in 2011.

     

    Where is he now?

    Zavon Hines moved to Burnley after refusing his contract and made 16 appearances with no return in goals before being loaned out to lower league side Bournemouth for the rest of the campaign. He was, subsequently, released from his contract after Burnley declined to take up the option of a second year.

    He is currently enjoying a more successful career at Bradford City after being refused a contract after a trial with Swindon Town. He has made 15 appearances this season, scoring one goal.

Junior Stanislas

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    Junior Stanislas enjoyed a more successful career at West Ham United in comparison to other youngsters who now ply their trade at a lower level.

    As a winger, he played 47 times for the Hammers, scoring eight goals across all competitions. For a wide man, this is a decent return.

    During the 2009/10 season, Stanislas broke into the first team and made his mark, scoring four goals from 28 appearances under Avram Grant, before the arrival of Gianfranco Zola curtailed his momentum, managing only 10 appearances and two goals across a two-year span before he was sold to Burnley along with Zavon Hines.

     

    Where is he now?

    Still at Burnley, Stanislas made 32 appearances for the Championship side, scoring no goals. He has already bettered this season with a return of two goals from 17 appearances in all competitions.

Cristian Montano

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    Cristian Montano was a widely touted prospect of the academy, enjoying loan spells in the lower leagues that were prolific in terms of appearances and for his age.

    Midway through the summer of 2012, it was reported that Cristian Montano would not be signing a new contract with the Hammers, with wages and his stated role at the club being rumoured reasons for his refusal to extend his career.

     

    Where is he now?

    Montano signed a two-year contract with Oldham Athletic that very summer and has made 13 appearances with a return of one goal.

    On a personal note, I was sad to see Montano leave, as he seemed to have that X-factor that would have seen him rise in profile under Sam Allardyce's leadership.

Freddie Sears

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    As a youth player, Freddie Sears was the definition of a prolific forward, scoring goals like it was going out of fashion.

    When he stepped up to the first team, he scored on his debut to secure a win for the Hammers and the crowds rejoiced. Us fans had found a new hero.

    Two years later, Sears scored his second goal.

    Almost two months later, he grabbed a third in a demolition of Burnley. He was then sent on loan to Colchester United and that would be the last that we would see of him.

     

    Where is he now?

    After being released from West Ham after their promotion back to the Premiership, Sears signed with Colchester United, where his sparse goal scoring continues, grabbing two goals across 17 appearances for the U's as of November.

Josh Payne

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    Josh Payne started his youth career on the South Coast for Portsmouth and Southampton before joining the West Ham academy in 2007.

    He never enjoyed much of a West Ham first-team career, earning two short substitute appearances whilst being loaned out for short periods to three separate teams. At the end of the 2009/10 season, Payne was released.

     

    Where is he now?

    Payne had an uneventful and disappointing time at Doncaster, before signing with Oxford United and then Aldershot after a short loan spell.

Kyle Reid

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    Kyle Reid debuted in 2006 and spent the rest of his West Ham career on loan at other clubs, making only sporadic appearances at best.

     

    Where is he now?

    Kyle Reid went through the motions at Sheffield United before being loaned to, and ultimately joining, Charlton Athletic in a productive spell. He ended up at Bradford City, where he is currently a productive member of their first team.

Bondz N'Gala

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    Bondz N'Gala only made two cup appearances for West Ham, spending the rest of his career out on loan where he was a bit-part player before ultimately leaving the club on a free.

     

    Where is he now?

    N'Gala has been to three clubs (Plymouth Argyle, Yeovil Town and Stevenage) since leaving West Ham. His career has since been more successful in terms of appearances and goals since he dropped divisions.

Anthony Edgar

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    The cousin of Jermaine Defoe, Anthony Edgar was a touted prospect who never reached the potential and rarely entered the first-team set-up. In this case, it may have been that his relations hindered his development via the weight of expectation.

     

    Where is he now?

    Edgar currently plies his trade for Barnet Town alongside Dutch legend Edgar Davids after a stint at Yeovil Town.

Marek Stech

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    Once touted as a future West Ham No. 1, Marek Stech flustered on his full debut and never recovered, being released in the summer cull of 2012.

     

    Where is he now?

    After numerous unsuccessful loans, Stech left to join Yeovil Town, henceforth known to this writer as the West Ham United Graveyard.

Conclusion

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    For every diamond, there is a lump of coal. Not every generation can produce a star, but graduating from West Ham's academy will at least provide you with a career in league football.

    Hit the comments in case there's a player that I've missed.

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