West Ham United Rankings: 5 Most Promising and Best Players Under 20 Years Old
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Can Elliott Lee, Dan Potts or Rob Hall ever emulate Bobby Moore or Frank Lampard? To be considered a future star and one of the greatest and most promising young talents under 20 years of age at West Ham United is as great an honour, as it is an indication of future stardom.
As local hero Joe Cole has returned to Upton Park, B/R examines the current batch of promising youths looking to break through at the Academy of Football.
The following five players presented are all part of a long and proud tradition of going through the ranks of the Academy of Football in East London.
Current footballing stars such as Frank Lampard, John Terry, Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand have all tasted European success, whereas Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Jermain Defoe have developed impressive international careers after starting their careers at West Ham.
Taking a brief look in the history books, West Ham United Academy of Football was established by Ron Greenwood and Ted Fenton in the '50s and '60s and produced some of the greatest stars to ever grace the English game.
Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Trevor Brooking, Martin Peters, Paul Ince and, of course, Bobby Moore, who captained England to World Cup glory in 1966, have all come through the East London academy.
When scrutinising the current batch of hopeful youth players at West Ham United, the five most promising youngsters will have to be less than 20 years of age and, in various ways, have shown promise of golden futures ahead when under the guidance of the director of the youth academy, Tony Carr.
Memorise these names!
Talent: George Moncur hopes to follow the path of his father, John, who played over 150 games for West Ham.
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Born August 18, 1993
The son of West Ham legend John Moncur, George made his debut for West Ham in August 2012 when the Hammers hosted Crew Alexandra in the Capital One Cup.
Moncur, who signed a professional deal with the East London club in 2010, showed great promise playing for West Ham’s development squad, netting three goals in 20 appearances before he was loaned out to AFC Wimbledon in January 2012.
After his England U18 debut in 2011, Moncur explained a desire to improve and develop into a Premiership pro (via the English FA):
I know I’ve got to keep working hard, because nothing is going to come easily for me. I get in early in the mornings and stay late after training working on extra stuff like my touch and weaknesses.
But centre-midfield is the perfect position for me because I love being involved in all of the different parts of the game—passing, heading and tackling.
The 19-year-old has 22 appearances for West Ham United's development squad this season—more than any player.
Wizard of Oz: Dylan Tombides has impressed at West Ham with his eye for goal. (Pic: whufc.co.uk)
Born August 3, 1994
Born in Perth, Australia, and having joined West Ham at the age of 15, Dylan Tombides is a tall and quick striker with an eye for goal.
Having showed impressive form and qualities for both the youth and reserve team, the 19-year-old was rewarded with his West Ham debut, as the Hammers slumped to a 4-1 defeat to Wigan in the Capital One Cup in September 2012.
The promising forward scored eight goals in 22 starts for West Ham’s youth and reserve teams during the 2010-11 season, an achievement that earned him Academy Player of the Year Award for that campaign.
The teenager made his first-team debut for West Ham only a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, discovered when on duty for the Australia U17 team.
After the game he tweeted the following:
Thanking all fans, friends and family who have messaged me tonight congratulating me I hope to repay you with goals in the near future!!
— Dylan Tombides (@Dylantombides) September 25, 2012
Blowing bubbles: Elliot Lee has cemented his place as one of West Ham's brightest, having already made his senior debut versus Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Pic: whufc.com)
Born December 16, 1994
Elliott Lee has quickly risen through the U18 team and established himself in the starting XI for West Ham’s development squad, competing in the U21 Premier League.
Unlike his dad—the hardworking midfielder Rob Lee, who played more than 700 games in his career and became a club legend with both Newcastle and Charlton—Elliott Lee is a striker and has netted four times in 13 starts this season.
Despite his young age of 18, Lee has already featured on the bench for West Ham United in the Premier League against Norwich, and on 16 Januray 2013, he made his senior debut as a substitute in the FA Cup when West Ham traveled to Manchester United’s Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford.
Speaking after his senior debut, Lee said the following (via whufc.com):
I'm over the moon and had a brilliant night. It would have been great at Upton Park, but the next best thing is the Theatre of Dreams at Old Trafford, so I'm delighted the gaffer decided to chuck me on. It's unfortunate about the result, but I'm still happy from a personal point of view.
Obviously it would have been great if one chance had dropped to me, but I was just happy to be out there playing alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney, so I thought it was brilliant.
It has been going really well. I was top scorer for the youth team last season, and I've pushed on to the development squad this year, so hopefully I can keep pushing on and push for a place on the bench for the first team.
Claret and Blue boy: Rob Hall signed for West Ham as a seven-year-old and is hotly tipped to be a future West Ham star.
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Born October 20, 1993
The appallingly rapid forward and winger Rob Hall joined West Ham at the age of seven and has not looked back, propelling his way though the ranks and to his senior-team debut as a substitute in the 2-1 npower Championship defeat at Derby County on December 31, 2011
Hall’s great left foot and extraordinarily tight ball control has made him one of the country’s most highly rated youngsters and accordingly led to several age-group-level caps for England.
Hall was voted West Ham United Academy player of the year for 2011-12 and won the 2010 UEFA European Under-17 Championship with England.
East London's finest: Dan Potts has already enjoyed spells in the senior team and judging by his process there are several more to come.
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Born April 13, 1994
Following in the footsteps of his famous father, Steve, who played 502 games for West Ham between 1985 and 2002 through the ranks at the Academy of Football, Dan Potts is versatile defender with great composure and ditto ability.
In the same week as Potts signed his first professional deal with the Hammers, he was handed his first-team debut by starting in the 1-0 win at Upton Park versus Barnsley in December 2011—a debut that went so well he kept his place in the following two games.
Continuing his progress and development, the 18-year-old has featured in three Premier League games in the 2012-13 season and saw himself in the headlines after suffering a severe concussion following a nasty crash with Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna.
As his father Steve was born in the United States, Potts, who overcame a life-threatening bout of leukaemia first diagnosed at the age of 12 before getting the all-clear in spring 2010, has represented both USA and England at under-20 and under-18 levels, respectively.
Academy director Tony Carr named Dan Potts "Young Hammer of the Year" last year following a very impressive 2011-12 season.
Previous Academy of Football Legends
Legends: the West Ham Champion statue outside Upton Park of West Ham's World Cup winning heros. From left to right: Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore (aloft) and Ray Wilson.
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To contextualise the significance of being touted as a future star coming through the ranks at West Ham United, below are just some names of players that have graced the beautiful game after graduating from the East London academy.
Widely considered one of the game’s greatest-ever players, Moore captained England to their only World Cup victory, in 1966. He was at West Ham from 1958-74, and the club’s most successful captain, lifting the FA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup the following year.
Moore died in 1993, and his shirt No. 6 is now retired at West Ham United.
Sir Geoff Hurst
Sir Geoff Hurst spent 13 years at West Ham, scoring 180 goals in the process. He is, however, mostly famous for being the only player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final, as England defeated West Germany 4-2 in 1966.
Not many in football are more East End than Harry Redknapp. Having played 149 games for the Hammers from 1965-72, Redknapp returned as a manager for the club in 1994 and is generally considered to be the man who gave Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe their breakthrough.
Sir Trevor Brooking
Knighted for services to sport in 2004, Sir Trevor Brooking made 47 appearences for England and the total of 636 for West Ham. Today, one of the stands at Upton Park is named the Sir Trevor Brooking stand.
Going through the ranks at West Ham, the prolific striker netted 115 goals in 279 league games for the Hammers in two different spells separated by a six-year period tormenting defenders for Everton.
The first black footballer to captain England enjoyed four years at the Academy of Football before signing a professional deal with West Ham, representing the club on 72 occasions before his transfer to Manchester United.
Capped 81 times for England, Ferdinand signed for West Ham as a schoolboy and graduated through the ranks of their academy before becoming the most expensive British football player when he signed for Leeds for £18 million in 2000.
He subsequently moved to Manchester United a few years later, in 2002, becoming the world’s most expensive defender in the process.
The son of Frank Lampard Sr., another West Ham legend, Lampard Jr. spent seven years at West Ham before signing for Chelsea for £11 million in 2001. The midfielder has since gone on to become the club’s second-highest all-time goalscorer, with 200 goals in all competitions.
Cole was considered one of the greatest talents to ever grace the game when he broke through West Ham’s youth academy and into the first team at the age of only 17.
Sadly many injuries played their part in Cole’s career. However having now returned to his boyhood club after spells at Chelsea, Liverpool and Lille, the 31-year-old could experience an exciting career renaissance.
Heaps of talent: Both old legends and possibly new Hammer legends gathered for the testimonial match of Tony Carr, West Ham's Director of Youth Academy.
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Republic of Ireland U19 star Kieran Sadlier has cemented his position as promising youngster this season, having netted eight times in 14 appearances for West Ham U18 this season.
The 17-year-old attacking midfielder has made 13 appearances for the U18 team this season, including some very promising performances in the FA Youth Cup.
18-year-old midfielder Taylor Miles exploded onto the scene after a 25-yard screamer for West Ham in the FA Youth Cup versus Chelsea. He has enjoyed 15 appearances for the youth team this season.