Have West Ham unearthed another academy gem?

ZhinesIn the dying seconds of Wednesday night’s game at Upton Park, the ball broke to Zavon Hines in the penalty area after a surging Scott Parker run; the youngster showed great composure to control the ball, turn away from two defenders and send a flicked shot past Brad Friedel, sending the Hammers’ fans into raptures. It was a moment of magic that could prove to be the turning point in West Ham’s season, giving them 3 points against a spirited Villa side and lifting Zola’s team out of the relegation zone.

The goal, Hines’ first in the league for West Ham, was just reward for a sparkling performance. Fans feared the worst when leading scorer Carlton Cole was forced off in the 31st minute with an injury, but Hines proved to be a more than able deputy. Aside from the goal, which he took with great maturity, Hines provided a genuine threat with his speed and dribbling ability. His pace and movement allows him to get in behind defences with relative ease and just as he did against Liverpool, the Jamaican-born starlet did very well to draw a foul and win his side a penalty. The injury to Carlton Cole may give Hines an opportunity to establish himself as a key part of West Ham’s future.

West Ham’s reputation for bringing through young talent is second to none. From World Cup winners Hurst, Moore and Peters, to current England internationals Lampard, Defoe and Joe Cole; not for nothing is West Ham United known as the Academy of Football. Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad is likely to feature six graduates of the prolific West Ham Academy, four of whom took part in the 2008 Champions League Final. More recently James Tomkins, Mark Noble and the exciting Jack Collison are already key members of the West Ham first team, and Zavon Hines along with Junior Stanislas, has been impressive when given the opportunity to play first team football.

In addition to his performances for West Ham, Hines did very well in his first appearance for Stuart Pearce’s England under-21 team against Macedonia, coming on as a substitute and scoring two goals. Jamaica may well come to regret the decision not to give Hines a full cap when he was called up to their squad for a friendly against Nigeria.

It is very early in Hines’ career to be able to make accurate predictions, but he is certainly a gifted footballer and in West Ham, he is at the perfect club to learn his trade, and in Gianfranco Zola, has the perfect teacher. If Hines proves to be a good student, West Ham may have a real gem of a player in their midst.