Earlier this week, as part of their support for the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign, West Ham hosted a pub quiz for some of the club’s LGBTQ+ fan groups.
Among the team names, you might have expected to find a Backstreet Moyes, a Bowen 747, perhaps, or even a rather wordy Two Pints Of Lager And A Paqueta Crisps. But it was telling of a young man’s growing stature in east London that the prize winners — who picked up some claret and blue Christmas jumpers, no less — had dubbed themselves Divin Intervention.
On Saturday, at Burnley, the Hammers had needed just that, young striker Divin Mubama coming off the bench to inspire a late turnaround and a 2-1 victory, though not for the first time in his fledgling career found a would-be goal awarded to an opposition defender.
“I’m gutted for him because he’s had three ‘goals’ now taken off him,” Hammers assistant coach Kevin Nolan says with a laugh. “Two by own goals and one by VAR, which wasn’t a handball.”
Officially then, Mubama still has only as many senior goals as he does trophies — one of each from last season’s Europa Conference League — and the same number, too, of Premier League appearances this term, in the shape of that sole cameo at Turf Moor.
The noise around a 19-year-old talent that few have seen a great deal of is, however, getting louder, and with Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen missing, he may well lead the line when the Hammers take on Backa Topola in Serbia in their penultimate Europa League group game, knowing victory will book their place in the knockout round.
“What Divin will give you is real hard work, energy, he likes to hold the ball up, he’s a good finisher, makes clever runs,” Nolan says. “He brings that effervescence, that energy and on Saturday we saw that when he came on.
“I’m really confident that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Divin in the coming weeks, months and for the rest of the season — and I’m confident he’ll get the goals and not have them chalked off him.”
While Nolan’s main job is as a first-team coach on David Moyes’s backroom staff, he has taken a particularly close interest in the development of a crop of academy players rated as West Ham’s best in two decades and has built a strong bond with a number of the youngsters involved in last season’s FA Youth Cup win.
Does he get a particular kick out of watching one of the club’s own, like Mubama, bridge the gap?
“Without a shadow of a doubt, yeah,” Nolan says. “What we’ve got to do is make sure we put them in at the right times.
"When we put them out, we’ve got to make them fly. We’ve got to monitor them and keep pushing, and keep telling and reminding the gaffer, because he’s got a big squad to handle.
“It’s easy for people to say he should be playing them, but he knows what he’s doing. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot of those youngsters on the pitch in the coming months and years.”
In Mubama’s case, though, there is a sense of urgency, the England youth international out of contract next summer.
"I’m really confident that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Divin in the coming weeks, months and for the rest of the season... and he'll get the goals"
Kevin Nolan on Divin Mubama
“All you can do is control the controllable,” Nolan adds. “With Divin, we’ve got to make sure that he’s happy, getting game time. People can always say he could go there and play but we have to make sure we stick together as a club and show Divin that there’s a real pathway for him.
“That was the start of it on Saturday. All Divin’s got to do is keep doing what he’s doing, keep his feet on the ground and keep working hard. He’s a really grounded lad. I speak to [the youngsters] a lot about making sure you’re ready, even for five minutes.
“You’ve got to be ready to go on and show what you’ve got.”