, the official website of the US United Soccer Leagues, has a two part article on a week long visit by 12 young American players to West Ham. Apart from continually calling football 'soccer' it is a good read. What is particularly heartening is that the players went to White Hart Lane and spent the match in the home end cheering for the opposition.
In Part One
Manager, Brandon Morris describes their week so far,
"On Sunday we woke up, had breakfast and went to West Ham’s Academy matches. They played three games, all at the same time in the U10, U12 and U14 division. The size of some of the kids was very impressive. They looked like they could have easily been U17 players. The overall ball control the West Ham Academy players possessed was amazing. For that age group, it was above and beyond what you would expect to see in the United States.
That evening we went to an English Premier League match between Newcastle and Tottenham. Our players seemed really excited for the match, which Newcastle won 4-1. Our seats were in the upper deck, but they were in the second row and there is not a bad seat in that place. A few of our guys were Newcastle fans. I don’t think a lot of people in our section liked the fact that they were cheering for the visitors. They were pretty annoyed, actually.
If I had to compare the atmosphere of the match to something in the US, I would say it was like an NFL grudge-match with very hardcore fans. People were out in the streets hours before the game even started. They were singing their songs and wearing their jerseys.
This morning we had our first training session. We showed up and West Ham provided all the players with new gear to train in. After a short warm-up, the players worked on a few drills focused on awareness when receiving the ball. The exercises were led by West Ham Academy Coach Paul Hilton. The kids were joined by two West Ham Academy players who had performed the drills before and were familiar with Hilton.
The players broke into a 6-v-6 scrimmage following the drills. They were joined there by the two keepers (Cody Mizell of the Atlanta Silverbacks & Cody Cropper of Bangu Tsunami) who were training with the West Ham Academy Goalkeeper Coach throughout the practice.
The atmosphere [of our first practice] was very laid back and the coach provided our guys with a basic idea of what they expected out of them this week. Our players seemed to fit right into the scrimmage. The West Ham Academy players stood out in the fact that they were very tall for their age, but as far as the level of play was concerned, our players were on the same level [as the West Ham Academy players].
During lunch, West Ham Academy Coach Paul Heffer introduced us to the “West Ham Way.” The basic idea of the classroom session was to get the players to ask whatever questions they had regarding West Ham. For the most part the players wanted to know their playing opportunities within the club. John [Hannan] asked a few questions about the style of coaching and the specific details of the “West Ham Way.”
The most important part of the trip this far is that the training this morning went so well. We took the players sightseeing in London once or twice already, but they did not seem too interested in the fact that they were in a historic city – they are here to play soccer."
In Part Two
Ryan Lehman, one of the youth players, discusses his experiences,
“On Monday we played with a 15-year old and a 20-year-old player from the academy,” said Lehman. “They are better than our group at certain exercises, mostly because they have been in the academy for three years already, but there are also things we are better at. We are better on the ball. Over here, they call it “tricks and flicks,” but it just means the technical ability of a player. The West Ham guys are very good at playing the ‘West Ham Way.’ They look to get the ball down and play one or two touch right away. They also play a very strong possession game and rarely turn the ball over.”
“I can notice the tactics West Ham stresses in training on the field in the West Ham Academy matches and in the game between Newcastle and Tottenham,” added Lehman. “Everything at the academy is about getting your head up and playing one or two touch soccer.”
“The biggest difference I have noticed between soccer in the US and soccer in England is the speed of play. The players also have a lot more discipline in their training. Where a few kids would tend to slack off back home, everyone here is focused on what they are doing and what the coach is saying.”
“The trip has been great so far,” added Lehman. “We are staying in a hotel that overlooks the stadium [Upton Park]. Everything is just amazing. Heading over here, I knew it would be fun, a once-in-a-lifetime experience – but it has gone far above my expectations.”