If the kids are united, they will never be divided! Published 26/03/18 on Moore Than Just A Club
Much was said in the run up to the charitable friendly match against Dagenham and Redbridge FC last Wednesday and many questioning its worth and validity over and above merely assisting a local side in some financial difficulties. However due to an early FA cup exit and the international break, it was deemed a good exercise to give the squad some time to improve some well needed match fitness.
The early battles were largely split evenly and although West Ham showed signs of quality, there was little to split the two teams until Antonio scored. After that it became rather routine, although D&R did return fire, Antonio added a second whilst Hugill added a third to score his first for the club.
There were obvious signs that some players were still not at the races, however it would be harsh to criticise under such circumstances, where most players will be wanting the exercise but would likely shy away from committed challenges in the fear of getting injured. Unfortunately during the match, Collins sustained an injury, or rather an aggravation of his hamstring and may yet be a doubt for this coming weekend’s fixture against Southampton.
For all the raised eyebrows on that evening, one blessing was to see the squad and youth players get a chance to shine and also to gain some valuable experience. Whilst many of the top names were away on international duty with their respective countries, it was left to the mix of old stalwarts and the up and coming young guns to lay down a marker, impress the manager and stake a claim for a starting line up.
The singular benefit of the game was to see how well some of the youth players handled themselves and how they were able to demonstrate their talents and composure, even when being pressed by an energetic D&R side. Whether coming on for a couple of minutes towards the end or early in the half, each one did not let themselves down, nor their teammates.
Of course it would be remiss to claim all was rosy…for that was clearly not the case. There were some positional errors and defensive gaffs as well a sprinkling of misplaced passes…however on the whole it was not a poor show considering many of these players would not have lined up with each other before.
There will always be those who would harbour the opinions that this game should never have been played for risk of injury to key players, however many teams engage in friendlies when under similar circumstances. Indeed any player can pick an injury at any stage, whether in training or in a match scenario too, so this argument will tend to break down under closer analysis.
The game would never be a true reflection of the current status of the team as many players were missing due to internationals, however the fans would have been pleased to see Masuaku return to the starting line up. Although he did not look as sharp as some of the others, some of his skills were evident for all to see, and he almost bagged a goal himself with a cross come shot which almost beat the keeper and the crossbar.
Overall it was a good outing for all the players and Moyes would have been able to look a lot closer at some of his youth players to determine whether or not they might be ready for early introductions into the senior side.
Whilst Antonio worked well for his time on the pitch and scored a brace of goals, he still appeared rather clumsy in his advances at times, but overall his pace looked better than it had been for some time and his fitness looked much improved too. However, Hugill stole the show for me and this might surprise many people too as there is a popular held belief that he simply is not ready for the Premiere League and the talents it demands.
The Hammers have been missing a ‘back to basics’ front man for some time and in Hugill, they just might have found the perfect foil to team up with Arnautovic or Hernandez up front. Of course he made some mistakes, but in the main his hold up play was good, his layoffs were sound and his positional play asked questions of both opposition defenders and his colleagues in midfield.
If anyone could whisper in Moyes’ ear, then they could do a lot worse than give Hugill a starting chance against Southampton if he is allowed to play with a fellow striker to feed off and feed to as well. Moyes should surely alter his formations and be more adventurous going forward, especially against Southampton, Stoke, Leicester and Everton. These are all winnable games but are just as easily losable too as each team have their own battles with league positioning until the end of the season
The team is missing a solid spine and the type of players that want to try all they can to fight for their places and help the team to better performances and results. Hugill and some of the other youth players certainly have the hunger and skills to hold their own if given the correct tactics and formations…if only Moyes would be brave enough to try them out, even in these crucial matches ahead.
For many of the first eleven this year have played as a group of individuals and not as a team, hence why performances have been low all season and the last too. There is a strong call to inject some of the youth back into the team, they just might surprise a lot of people and may even surpass many people’s expectations too. They can bring everything together and give the team the impetus to strive forward…together. If the kids are united, they will never be divided!