There was a lot of commentary Tuesday night about how West Ham United is a crap club because it took them over 200 minutes between two matches to score a goal against Shrewsbury Town, but there was a bit more to the story. Five youth players got a start for the senior squad. Toni Martinez got his first senior start, and Reece Oxford, Josh Cullen, Reece Burke, and Sam Byram — who has been in and out of the first team but is just 22 years old — got starts as well. Sure they got their starts against a League Two side, but a win is a win, and the FA Cup is historically important to West Ham fans and players. On Tuesday night, we saw that when a manager puts trust in the youth, it gives them confidence enough to get the job done. This is what West Ham is about: the academy.
It took until the 112’ in this third round replay, but Reece Burke scored a scorcher, assisted with a fantastic pass from Toni Martinez, and watching him and the others celebrate together was magnificent. These lads are the future of West Ham, and we’re finally seeing results from the kids we’ve been hearing so much about for what has seemed like ages.
In this replay match, David Moyes showed once again that he is not afraid to put faith in his youth players, six-month contract or not — something his predecessor was notorious for being afraid to do. No shade to Slaven Bilic — he’s a wonderful guy, and many of us at Brace The Hammer were some of his biggest fans — but it seemed while he was fighting to keep his position that he forgot the heart and soul of West Ham is its academy. It may have taken over 200 minutes between two matches to score on a League Two side, but the kids still did it. They’re learning. This is progress, and Moyes’ trust in the young guns shone through all the rough patches leading up to the win.
Absolutely buzzing to get my first @WestHamUtd goal! Been dreaming about this since I was a kid! To score it in injury time and take us through to the next round of the #FACup infront of the home fans, made it a moment I will never forget!! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/wo0SkLLVhx— Reece Burke (@ReeceBurke) January 16, 2018
As the season goes on and more and more injuries come in for West Ham, it’s possible that Moyes could be faced with picking youth players for the senior squad more often. The way the transfer window is going so far, it doesn’t look like he’ll be adding any other fresh talent. Domingos Quina is one youth player to keep an eye on, and it would be nice to see him get some more playing time. At the very least, though, Moyes is putting the right foot forward in placing more trust in the youth, and it’s got many of us more excited for the future than ever.