West Ham United could be made to rue releasing Evan Khouri from their academy after the midfielder made his league debut for Grimsby Town against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
Khouri departed the Irons’ at the age of 16 having failed to work his way through the grades and into the club’s U18 or U23 sides, and was picked up by Grimsby for their youth fold in the summer of 2019.
He spent the following year proving his potential behind the scenes at Blundell Park, before being given his first-team debut from the bench against Morecambe in an EFL Cup tie last September.
A run-out against Harrogate Town in the EFL Trophy would follow three days later, but Khouri has had to wait a further seven months before his next taste of senior action when handed a surprise start at home to promotion-chasing Bolton for his League Two bow.
The 18-year-old impressed on his first taste of fourth-tier action as basement boys Grimsby pulled off a shock result to beat automatic promotion hopefuls Bolton 2-1, for what was only the Mariners’ eighth win in 41 games this season.
Grimsby boss Paul Hurst described Khouri’s display as being “excellent” as he did well to manage the occasion despite there being no supporters in the stands, but had already received glowing recommendations from his side’s youth coaches.
“He’s left-footed, he gives us a bit of balance. I’ve been quietly impressed with him, and I know Neil [Woods] and Callum [Lester] in the youth-team speak very highly of him,” Hurst said, via quotes by Grimsby Live.
Khouri earned Hurst’s praise having attempted three shots – only Lenell John-Lewis (6), Harry Clifton (6) and Jay Matete (6) took more for either side – won possession from three of four attempted tackles – the fourth-most won – and took 34 touches – just five fewer than 33-year-old striker James Harrison, per WhoScored.
His progress under Hurst has also seen Grimsby offer a professional contract, and continuing to progress at Blundell Park and making his way up the divisions in the years that follow could see Khouri make West Ham regret their decision to not offer him a scholarship deal.