I don’t write players off, but after a handful of outings last season I could probably have been forgiven if I had done so with Zach. He signed early in the window, but we saw nothing of the pace and direct running we were told he had. I suspected, as the winter turned to spring, that he’d fallen by the wayside and a part of me wondered if it might be a loan for him come the new campaign. Then we kicked off.
What I’ve seen so far from the former Waterford man has impressed me hugely. He’s been excellent in pre-season, a willing runner full of pace and often able to get to the byline with a telling ball. It might just be me, but he looks to have bulked up too, seemingly now far more prepared for the physical aspects of League One football. With the likes of Grant, Archibald and Anderson (and others) all pushing for a spot out wide, competition is fierce, but I wonder if perhaps the Republic of Ireland Under 21 might be a surprise package this season. I say surprise, I mean that in the nicest possible way based on his handful of outings last time around.
I remember the Bristol Rovers game approximately one year ago. Grant was injured and the rumour going around the ground was that he’d gone back to Forest (despite being sold to us). Then when he came off at half time against Wimbledon, his time looked up. We knew what his attributes were from his spell with Notts County, but his disappointing stints with Luton and Mansfield brought concerns around application and attitude. How wrong the fans who wrote him off were.
He is seemingly one of the senior pros now, wearing the captain’s armband and influencing games from several different positions. His silky skills are still there, that wicked delivery and the penchant for the extravagant, but there is a maturity and seniority to what he does now. He’s clearly enjoying working with Michael and when you consider how Jack Payne was bombed out, it was by no means a given that Grant would step up. Obviously, he changed the game on Tuesday from the deep-lying midfield position, but in 30 minutes he opened up everywhere, creating chances, making passes and tracking runners. If he keeps it up, then he’s sure to attract serious attention from the Championship, a level he is looking increasingly equipped to cope with.
Football is a game that should be enjoyed by players and fans. Kids take a ball down the park (or they used to at least) to have fun, score goals and battle their friends. Across the UK, young players have smiles on their faces as they bear down on goal, whether chasing a tennis ball in school shoes or playing for their local team. That joy is something I see in Anthony Scully, a youthful excitement that manifests itself in direct play and chance creation.
I’m not saying he’s reckless, not at all. Look at the corner that led to our winner against Crewe; who supplies the telling pass, cutting the defence open? He does. Look how many box entries he made after coming on for 13 minutes against Scunthorpe, or how he strode up to bag a penalty in the shoot out. He’s got that swagger that youth brings, but the quality that being at West Ham requires too. I can almost imagine as he gets the ball and runs at goal, he’s commentating in his head, pretending to be Messi, Rooney or whoever else his idol was, just like the youngsters down the park.
I like that, I like his style and his directness. I hope we can find the perfect role for him to thrive because he will score goals and he will create goals. In a 4-3-3 it is more likely we see him out wide of a three-man attack, or used as a late sub through the middle. In a 4-2-3-1 there’s a chance he could be the ten if he is trained and coached in the right manner. One thing is for certain; he is in good hands. Potential is one thing, ability is another and the third crucial ingredient for success if the right mentoring. I can’t help but feel young Mr Scully has all three.
I could have picked any number of players to wax lyrical about here, but I have chosen to finish on the young Dutch centre half who I think (I think) might have done some modelling according to Thommo. A couple of seasons ago, Crawley signed a lad from the Dutch second division side Almere City I remember thinking it was a real reach, what on earth would a player from the Dutch lower divisions know about the rough and tumble of our Fourth Division. That player was Enzio Boldewijn and although he later dropped out of the Football League with Notts County, he is a player who proved me wrong. I’m glad he did because it meant when Lewis signed I knew to put my worries to one side.
The second point I have to make about Lewis comes courtesy of my Dad. Regular readers will know all about my Dad, a no-nonsense man who likes what he likes and isn’t impressed by pomp and bluster, only performance and fact. I could never imagine him warming to a young centre half from the continent, but last night he was banging on about Lewis like he was the best player in our squad. How refreshing it is to see a defender pinging fifty-yard balls to feet, popping up in the box and banging in goals. Yup, my Dad likes Lewis already and that should be a real indication of how good the lad is. As an aside, it took Dad at least three months to warm to Bozzy.
Lewis Montsma is a huge talent, or so it seems. He’s adapted quickly, he looks relatively settled and he can play the game. He seems fearless, strong and able to play the football Michael wants. I’m not saying there won’t be teething problems, I’d like to see him a little more commanding defending set pieces, but that’s an observation from what are essentially pre-season matches. I think he will be a first-choice defender for us this season, something I wasn’t sure about three weeks ago and, if he keeps developing and learning, he could be the perfect example of our player trading method bearing real fruits.