This week, our featured future England star in the making is West Ham United and England U-19 defender Jordan Spence.
Spence is a product of the hugely successful West Ham academy which has produced a number of notable England internationals, including the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick and Spence will be looking add his name to this illustrious group of West Ham players who have gone on to feature regularly for England.
He joined the academy back in 2004 as a precocious 14 year old and impressed almost immediately at Upton Park. The 2005-2006 season saw a young Spence make his academy debut in West Ham’s 5-1 defeat at Ipswich Town. In addition to featuring for the academy side, Spence’s talents were such that he was selected to play in the reserve team that very same season, making his reserve team debut as a substitute in the Hammer’s 3-0 defeat to Watford. A 15 year old Spence would go on to make a total of 5 appearances for the youth team and 2 substitute appearances for the reserve team.
His potential was not to go unnoticed by the England youth setup who called up Spence to the U-16 team. He played 6 times for Kenny Swain’s team, captaining the side and leading them to triumph in the Victory Shield in November 2005.
The next season saw Spence become a regular fixture in the academy side while also making the jump up on the international stage to U-17 football. The summer of 2007 saw Spence captain the England squad which competed in the FIFA U-17 World Cup where England produced a solid display, reaching the last 16 round under Spence’s leadership.
As a result of Spence’s increasing reputation, he found himself more heavily involved with the reserve team during the 2007-2008 season. He scored his first goal for the reserves in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal and went on to make 11 appearances for the reserve team as well as playing regularly for the academy side and the England U-18 and U-19 teams.
Manager Alan Curbishley rewarded Spence’s form by calling up the defender to the substitute’s bench for West Ham’s first two Premier League games of the 2008-2009 season and again in the Hammer’s League Cup victory over Macclesfield Town. September saw Alan Curbishley replaced at the Upton Park helm by Gianfranco Zola. The Italian sent Spence on loan to League One team Leyton Orient to give the youngster a taste of first team football. He joined the O’s in November 2008 initially on a one month deal and made his debut for the club in an FA Cup second round tie against Bradford. He returned to Upton Park in January only to be loaned back to Orient where he played regularly for the O’s until the end of the season.
The beginning of last season saw Spence go out on loan again, this time to Championship team Scunthorpe United on a one month deal which was extended until January 2010. Spence played eleven times in all for the Lincolnshire side before returning to West Ham where he was named captain of the reserve team.
After 6 years at the club, Spence finally made his first team bow at the end of last season when he came on as a late second half substitute for Alessandro Diamanti in the Hammer’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
During his time with West Ham and the England youth team, Spence has distinguished himself as an outstanding England prospect. He plays with an assurance beyond his years and possesses pace, versatility, positional awareness and is comfortable in possession. His style of play is very much reminiscent of fellow West Ham academy graduate and England captain Rio Ferdinand. He has captained England at U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-19 level so he certainly has the necessary leadership qualities to be a future England captain down the line. Time will tell whether he will be able to reach these lofty heights but there is no doubt that he has the potential to do so.