The West Ham United has been known as the Academy of Football for nearly 50 Years. It has produced many talented footballers that have gone on to very successful careers both at club and international levels. World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters all started their careers at West Ham and since then, through the last 5 decades the Academy have continued to produce many more, even this season we have seen the debuts of Dan Potts and Rob Hall. Trying to add their name to that impressive list is Blair Turgott who at just 17 years of age has already signed a professional contract with the club. I caught up with Blair after today’s match to find out a bit more on one of our most promising youths and get his thoughts on The Academy.YR: Tell us a bit about yourself before joining The Academy?
BT: My Dad (Bob) runs a football team in South London where I grew up and at about 6 years old myself and some lads got together and played for him. We got quite good and so entered a league, then when I was 9 I got a trial at West Ham.YR: Were any other clubs interested in you at that time?
BT: Yes, most of the other London clubs were interested in me, Charlton and other South London clubs wanted me and I was close to signing for Arsenal. YR: How did it feel having big clubs interested in you and Why did you choose West Ham?
BT: It was brilliant, but especially having West Ham interested because they are known for their academy. When I heard they wanted me I knew that’s where I wanted to be. My brother had been here a few years ago so I knew it was a good place to be.YR: Did you know the scout was watching you, how does that work?
BT: No not really, a couple of times after a game a scout would come up to my dad or the manager after a game and give him his business card and say I’m interested in this player or that player. I remember once there was a big cup final game between us and our closest rivals and we knew that a lot of clubs would have been watching, so although I was quite nervous when you’re so young you just concentrate on enjoying the football. From that team about 6 or 7 players went on to sign for league clubs, including me and Lamar Hurley here at West Ham.YR: Describe an average day at The Academy?
BT: We come here to Little Heath in the morning and have certain jobs that have to be done, only once the jobs are done do we start training. After morning Training we come back in and change before heading over to Chadwell Heath to have lunch and in the afternoon either do another training session or a gym session.YR: Do you get to mix with the first team and manager at all?
BT: Yes, quite a lot actually. On a Friday we have a 11 v 11 game with the starting 11 First team for the next match against the U18’s, We are asked to watch videos of the opposition and then line up and play as we expect them to. So for instance when we play Leeds I was asked to play the role Snodgrass would play, hopefully it gives the 1st an idea on what to expect and we get to learn from the first team plus it means Mr Allardyce gets a good look at us too.YR: I’ve seen you play Right midfield, Left Midfield and striker, where do you think is your best position?
BT: Probably right midfield, but I also like to play the number 10 free role just off the striker where you’re not too restricted and can get involved with play more.YR: Who is the best player you have played against?
BT: Really hard question because there is a lot of talent around at youth level , when I was 15 I was playing for the U16’s and came up against Josh McEachran and he was really good.YR: You made your England debut in 2009 against Northern Ireland, explain how that felt?
BT: Ah it was just amazing! There was a camp before where we did light training and got the squad together. The night before we all sit down and there is a small power point presentation of who is in the team and how and where we are going to play, when I found out I was playing I was just buzzin’ had butterflies the lot. Pulling on the England shirt, walking out the tunnel and singing along with the National Anthem was one of the best experiences ever. Sadly I’m too old for Under 17’s for the Euros this year but I aim to push into the U19 squad for next year.YR: How would you like to see your career progress?
BT: I just want to keep playing football, keep doing well and hopefully break into the West Ham first team. When I first started out I just wanted to do the best I could, now when I’m around a big club and big players I want to fulfil my potential and of course the dream is to play in the Premier League.YR: Do you think you are good enough for the first team now?
BT: I still need to strengthen up my frame, playing against men I know I need to work on getting a bit stronger, technically I’d might be in with a shout but I just need to work hard and be patient and whether I’m in youths, reserves or 1st team just work hard and be the best I can.YR: Lots of the youths seem to go out on loan, is that something you’d be happy doing?
BT: It’s something I would consider of course, I need to concentrate on doing well for the development squad next year and then if clubs see me and want to take me on load I’d consider it then. Getting first team experience is needed, it’s all very well doing good with the reserves but that 3 O’clock kick off in front of lots of fans is different and going out on loan can give you that experience.YR: What other players should we be looking out for from The Academy?
BT: As a group we have some very good players, it would be unfair to mention just 1 or 2 as there are quite a few who have a good future. We’ve already seen Rob Hall and Dan Potts get their debuts this year but I really think that in the next year we could see a few more.YR: Is there more or less of a chance of that happening should we get promoted?
BT: It’s hard because when we get in the Premier League the aim will be to stay there so a manager could be tempted to go and buy experienced players, but if as a reserve player you’re doing well in the Development squad or out on loan then there is no reason you wouldn’t be in with a shout.YR: @blairturgott is your Twitter name, you seem to enjoy it on there, why should people follow you?
BT: Ha yeah I enjoy it, I like the banter. I speak my mind and don’t take myself too seriously. It’s good to be able to go somewhere and be able to speak you mind.YR: I have to ask this for the website I post on – what is your favourite flavour crisps?
BT: (laughs) Salt and VinegarYR: Thanks very much for taking the time to chat, when you get your first team debut maybe I can interview you again?
BT: Nice one Little Man, yeah I’d like that, thank you it’s been good.
I would like to thank Blair again for being good to chat to in my first (hopefully of many) interview with the youth team. Blair will be starting his second year of his professional contract next year and will be moving on to the reserve team/development squad. We wish him well and look forward to seeing him progress into the first team. You can keep up to date with him on Twitter @blairturgott or with the whole of the youth team by following me @WillisJamieson