Major changes have taken place at West Ham this summer, with Manuel Pellegrini signing seven new faces, but the youngsters cannot be forgotten.
The Hammers are famed for the strength of the players coming through their academy and that was proven once again last season by Declan Rice, who starred in a central defensive role and earned his debut with the Republic of Ireland.
Still just 19, Rice is expected to be a crucial member of the West Ham squad once again this season under Pellegrini, although the recent signings of Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena hand him further competition for a starting berth.
Rice is not the only young talent who is capable of becoming an asset for the first-team squad and Pellegrini needs to hand opportunities to these three players during the 2018/19 season.
21-year-old Toni Martinez was continuously overlooked by Slaven Bilic in the first-half of last season, despite Javier Hernandez’s struggles and the fact Martinez had impressed for the U23 side, before joining second-tier Spanish side Real Valladolid on-loan in January.
With West Ham remaining short of options in the final third, particularly after Andy Carroll’s latest injury setback, Martinez is a player who could be extremely valuable this season and Football.London has reported he has already made an impression on Pellegrini.
Boasting an incredible return of 25 goals in 29 games in two seasons with the U23 squad, Martinez is ready for the next challenge and opportunities must be handed to him.
At the age of 22, Josh Cullen has three Premier League appearances under his belt and has also earned opportunities in both the FA Cup and Europa League in recent years. After spending the second-half of last season on-loan with Bolton, it is now crunch time for the Republic of Ireland U21 international.
Sky Sports has stated Manuel Pellegrini has rebuffed approaches from a number of Football League sides so far in the transfer window as he intends to make Cullen part of his first-team squad, which the Hammers need to ensure happens – otherwise he could become one that got away.
With West Ham lacking depth in midfield, Cullen should be a valuable squad player for Pellegrini in the fight across a number of fronts.
“If it means losing a tooth or two, then so be it. I’ll always try to carry on and give 100 per cent for the shirt.”
With Sky Sports stating Barcelona are the latest side to express an interest in Portugal U19 international Domingos Quina, it is clear that West Ham have a talent on their hands – and Manuel Pellegrini should fight tooth and nail to retain his services.
Having entered the final 12 months of his contract, Quina is standing firm of his demands for first-team football and will likely complete a transfer for around £600k if West Ham do not provide him with what he is looking for – and Pellegrini needs to bite the bullet.
The 18-year-old midfielder has the talent to succeed at West Ham if he is given the opportunity but has not been handed those chances in recent years, despite remaining at the club since his arrival in 2016 while many of his team-mates spent time away on-loan.