West Ham injuries could allow youngsters to shine at Sunderland
PUBLISHED: 08:30 14 April 2017
Hammers youngsters Jonathan Calleri and Edimilson Fernandes could get a start at the Stadium of Light
With injuries and lack of fitness hitting West Ham, their trip to Sunderland tomorrow (Saturday) could give some of the youngsters an opportunity to show what they can do.
Michail Antonio is out for the rest of the season, captain Mark Noble is suspended for the next two games and question marks remain over the fitness of Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho, giving manager Slaven Bilic something to ponder as they take on the rock bottom Black Cats.
It seems there could be a place in the starting line-up for striker Jonathan Calleri and midfielder Edimilson Fernandes.
“Calleri did really well when he came on against Swansea, with his energy, with his opening up of spaces for other players. He also had a couple of good chances,” said Bilic.
“All I can say is that he is a very good professional. He is not a regular, but he has never dropped his energy in training by even one per cent.
“That is why he deserves a chance and he played really good against Swansea, so we are going to decide who will start.”
Carroll is back in full training after sitting on the bench against Swansea, but Bilic must decide whether to risk his groin.
“Andy is a big weapon for us, a real threat to the opposition,” he added.
“We are probably going to need both of them on Saturday. We are going to decide who is going to start.”
Another youngster who may get his chance to start is 19-year-old Fernandes who has impressed in his first season at the club.
“When we signed him, most of the people, including him, were a little surprised. There were talks about him going out on loan, but no,” added Bilic.
“He is playing a lot for us. He is not starting a lot, but he’s playing. The impact he has made is quite significant.
“He is always on the verge. Every week we are talking about him starting.
“He’s doing very well in training and every time he has come on he has made a good impact, whether we have to keep the result or when we need someone to pass the ball with his quick feet.”
One problem the Switzerland international has faced is the language barrier.
“I spoke to him about the language and we are helping him,” said Bilic.
“I remember when I came to a new country like Germany I was struggling, not necessarily on the pitch, but to integrate off it. It is key. He has improved a lot, but he has to do better.
“I spoke to his cousin who is playing in France – Gelson Fernandes – who speaks five languages, perhaps he can loan him one!” he laughed.
“He has a good chance to start next game against Sunderland and we are planning to use him a lot next season.”
It seems Calleri and Fernandes may well get their chance this weekend, while Sam Byram is another youngster battling to be fit after leaving London Stadium on crutches last Saturday.
“He didn’t train with us this week, though he has been doing stuff individually,” said Bilic.
“From the beginning it was 50/50 because he rolled his ankle. He did a fitness test and got the all clear so he should be okay, especially with Sam because he really wants it badly.”
Whatever team he picks, Bilic will be confident of picking up all three points against a team 10 points adrift of safety.