Legend’s son and prolific striker: The West Ham starlets vying to take Europa Conference League chance

Ollie Scarles is among the youngsters set to feature for West Ham against FCSB in Romania on Thursday  (Getty Images)
Ollie Scarles is among the youngsters set to feature for West Ham against FCSB in Romania on Thursday (Getty Images)

There are 11 days until the club season breaks for the World Cup and West Ham still have four matches to play in that time, so it is little surprise David Moyes has left the bulk of his first team at home for tonight’s Europa Conference League dead-rubber in Bucharest.

Having won five out of five to top Group B with a game to spare, the Hammers travel to FCSB sure of dodging a knockout play-off in the New Year and with a crop of the club’s brightest academy talents in tow.

“There are a couple of young players that are going to start,” Moyes ­confirmed yesterday, with Manuel ­Lanzini, Angelo Ogbonna and Nayef Aguerd among the senior figures short on minutes also set to be involved.

“We’re going to give them an opportunity and maybe some of the others will get an opportunity as well, because in some of the other games we weren’t able to do so. We hope we can do that but we still want to win the game and we still want to finish the group off well.”

A year ago, Moyes blooded a host of youngsters in similar circumstances in a 1-0 home defeat by Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League group stages, though the hostile environment of Bucharest’s National Arena may presents a rather more daunting challenge.

Freddie Potts, who made a brief cameo against the Croats, has been an unused substitute in each of the three home group games, and is expected to get his chance tonight.

The 19-year-old midfielder is the son of Steve Potts, who made more than 500 appearances for West Ham and now coaches in the academy, and joined Moyes’s senior side on their pre-season camp in France.

16-year-old midfielder Ollie Scarles is another already with a flavour of the European campaign, having been an unused substitute in last month’s away victory over Anderlecht in Belgium. The youngster found out he was travelling just two hours before the Hammers’ flight left London, having been told to bring his passport into training just in case.

“The whole time I was there with them, I was just trying to take it all in,” he said. “At times, I just could not believe I was there. It felt like I was watching some sort of documentary, where you watch what’s happening in a football first team.”

Divin Mubama has been prolific for West Ham at youth level and should also play in Bucharest (Getty Images)
Divin Mubama has been prolific for West Ham at youth level and should also play in Bucharest (Getty Images)

With neither Michail Antonio nor Gianluca Scamacca in the travelling party, 18-year-old forward Divin Mubama will also be hopeful of a chance after scoring 15 times for the Under-18s last term, having been that side’s top scorer a season earlier while a schoolboy.

West Ham’s current U21s are a youthful crop, bottom of the Premier League 2’s top-flight and winless after 11 games following a transitional summer that saw some of the key figures of last year’s successful campaign - when they finished second to Manchester City - move on.

If there is a warning to those involved this evening it is that of eight academy graduates who featured against Zagreb a year ago, only three have played for the firs team since - and one of those was called Mark Noble.

Now retired and installed as sporting director, Noble’s path remains the gold standard for players coming through the self-styled Academy of Football. A lucky few will have the chance to take a small step along it in Romania this evening.