With West Ham in Europe this season, we could see plenty of fringe and youth talent get an opportunity at the London Stadium, particularly in competitions like the Carabao Cup which gets underway next week.
And since David Moyes has returned to the club for a second stint, he has put his faith in several of the club’s promising youngsters – perhaps a sign of a new approach this time around.
For example, back in January, the 58-year-old boss handed first-team debuts to several academy starlets, including Jamal Baptiste, in their FA Cup fourth-round victory over Doncaster Rovers.
That day made it eight graduates to have been given a senior bow by the Scotsman since he was appointed for a second time.
Baptiste is a player that many in east London are eager to see more of – he impressed during pre-season, has been capped at youth level for England and can play right across the backline, making him a very interesting option for the long term.
‘Tall, strong and comfortable in possession’ is how the club’s official website describes the 17-year-old sensation, whilst he cites both Virgil van Dijk and West Ham’s former defender and his academy mentor Matthew Upson as players he bases his game on.
This summer, Baptiste scored the opening goal of the Hammers’ pre-season with a nicely-timed side-footed volley against Dundee and whilst it’s not a competitive encounter, it is certainly a promising sign that being around the first-team does not phase him one bit.
Meanwhile, the Hammers’ former academy director Terry Westley told Claret & Hugh that Baptiste is “one of the finest young prospects at the club without a doubt.”
He then added: “Believe me [he] is going to be a monster player in the Issa Diop mould. I see him as exactly that – the new Issa Diop. He’s got everything, height, power, pace and is already, at such a young age, making a serious impact on the under 23s.”
If Baptiste is looking up to the former Irons star, then Moyes could well unearth their next Upson in the 17-year-old gem. As there are plenty of fixtures on the horizon, the West Ham boss must look to hand valuable minutes to players like Baptiste.