Defender signs first pro contract with West Ham
PUBLISHED: 11:46 12 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:46 12 November 2020
Arfa Griffiths Photographers
An academy star has signed his first professional contract with West Ham on his 17th birthday.
Defender Jamal Baptiste, who has been with the club since he was eight, has penned a two-and-a-half year deal.
He became the Hammers’ second youngest-ever under-23s player last season and played 90 minutes for the first-team in a 5-1 pre-season win over Wycombe Wanderers at Adams Park.
A regular for England at youth international level, Baptiste was also called up to England U18s for the first time earlier this season.
Baptiste said: “I’m over the moon. I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time and the day has come.
“I joined West Ham at eight and I’ve had a really good time since. The big thing I’ve learned is just to always work hard, no matter whether I’m doing well or not doing well, and always to speak to the coaches and players around me to help my career.
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“When I was younger, I wasn’t one of the best players in my eyes, but then I started working harder.
“I got an opportunity and I feel like I took it, and ever since U15s I’ve been with the U18s, which brings pressure but I think I’ve dealt with it well.”
He revealed that Hammers star Declan Rice has been a major inspiration in his career so far.
Baptiste added: “He’s always told me just to enjoy it and to always work hard and remember why you’re there. He was in my shoes around this time in his career and look where he is now.“
Academy manager Ricky Martin described the announcement as great news for Baptiste and the academy.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has played their part in helping Jamal to get to this stage in his development,” Martin said.
“Jamal is one of the youngest players to play regularly in our U23s and he’s representing his country, so of course his profile is good. But at the moment, he’s in the development stages.
“He’s met the manager and he has put that message across to Jamal and his family. It’s very much one step on the ladder, but he’s got many more steps to take. Jamal knows that, we know that, and we’re here as an academy to help our young players to develop.”
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