West Ham’s U23 squad continued their fine form over the weekend, rising to third in the Premier League 2 standings after a 3-1 win over Everton’s academy side.
It was another impressive outing for Dmitri Halajko’s young Irons, who currently rank above some big-name set-ups, including Liverpool and Chelsea.
One player central to their fortunes has been towering centre-back Aji Alese. He is a player that could save David Moyes and co millions in future transfer windows, especially if he continues to excel.
The 20-year-old gem stands at 6 foot 4 inches and even found himself on the scoresheet at Rush Green on Saturday, taking his tally to two for the season.
As U23s skipper, Alese must be catching the eye of the Scotsman and with plenty of fixtures coming thick and fast throughout the 2021/22 campaign, there will surely be more opportunities in the senior side.
He was one of several academy stars to make their debut in the Carabao Cup last year, featuring against Hull City in the third round but now the Hammers have to also contend with the Europa League, on top of all their domestic commitments.
Plenty of the London Stadium faithful were left impressed by Alese’s 90-minute showing against the Championship side, so perhaps it’s a surprise to not have seen him more frequently since.
Of course, Moyes now has Kurt Zouma alongside Angelo Ogbonna, Issa Diop and Craig Dawson but two of the four are well into their 30s now and will need to be replaced sooner rather than later – Alese can be that man.
The young captain has already impressed staff members at West Ham, including first-team coach Kevin Nolan, who dubbed him “a great lad with a very good attitude towards his development” and former assistant-turned-advisor Alan Irvine, who described him as “brilliant” after that win over Hull.
Glowing endorsements didn’t just stop there after his debut.
“Alese [is] a left-footed centre-half, which is gold dust,” claimed Tom Edwards on the ‘We Are West Ham’ podcast. “[Alese] looked like a seriously good player, as well – comfortable on the ball, good in the air, and it was just a joy to see two young players, who, not like [Declan] Rice or [Reece] Oxford, you heard lots about.”
Capped at England U20 level, Alese could well be the next big thing to come through the Hammers’ academy system, following in the footsteps of Ben Johnson and Declan Rice.
It’s time for Moyes to unleash the young Irons prodigy over the coming months. He could save the club millions in the future, particularly when the likes of Ogbonna and Dawson hang up their boots – or move on.