Yuill’s experience at West Ham’s youth academy


Louis Yuill runs toward the ball in Marquette's 0-0 tie against UC Davis. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Excited, a little high on adrenaline and not really sure what was going on: That’s how freshman midfielder Louis Yuill felt after winning “man of the match” with West Ham’s youth academy at age 16. It was a special match, with Yuill receiving the title in a 1-1 draw against one of the top youth academies in the world: Barcelona.

“That was my peak,” Yuill joked. “Yeah, it was pretty cool.”

From ages nine to 16, Yuill played for West Ham United’s youth academy, which is a team in the English Premier League. According to TSM Sportz, the Premier League is the most watched soccer league in the world with a viewership audience of 4.7 billion. This is 1.7 billion more viewers than the second most watched soccer league, Bundesliga.

“The use of professional academies from personal experience, friends and guys that we’ve recruited, they are pretty much (in existence) to serve one thing: to produce professional soccer players,” Marquette head coach Louis Bennett said.

Bennett said there are various outcomes from these academies, including selling or keeping players, depending on the teams’ needs. He also said the players get a quality soccer education.

While Bennett said some countries like Germany and Sweden will also encourage academics with soccer, others won’t as much.

“As long as you’re compliant in school, they’re happy,” Bennett said.

Despite this, Bennett said there are few players from each class that actually go into professional soccer.

“The Barcelona’s and the Manchester United’s are exceptions — (but) West Ham (is) actually pretty good at this — but mostly if you have a batch of 20 players in a certain age group, if you get one to five players signing professional, you’ve done an unbelievable job,” Bennett said.

Yuill later played for Birmingham City’s youth squad, which is in the English Football League Championship league, the second highest level of soccer in England.

When Yuill was seven years old, he played on a non-academy team where scouts identified his talent. Next, he went to pre-academy, which Yuill described as regional training. Scouts watch the best players train and determines whether to sign them.

When he was nine years old, Yuill signed with West Ham, which he said was his favorite club growing up.

The midfielder said they trained twice a week and played on Sundays. At around age 11 and 12, it got a little more intense, with three training days in addition to the Sunday games. They played other youth teams around London like Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. When he was 14, he had what was called “day release.”

Yuill took one day out of the week during school to train, which required permission from the school. He would bring his schoolwork with him. He had about an hour or hour and a half to work on his school assignments. Yuill trained in the morning and afternoon and still practiced during the week while playing on Sundays.

His team was focused on player development over winning, especially when the players were young.

“Obviously the result matters, you don’t want to get beat six, seven nil,” Yuill said. “But there’s a real fine line between wanting to win, win, win, and trying to develop a player.”

As a part of the academy, he received coaching from West Ham United’s Premier League team. Current West Ham players on the Premier League team include players like forward Sebastien Haller and midfielder Manuel Lanzini.

Yuill said players sometimes want to coach after they retire, so they’ll coach youth while in the academies. One example he gave was Jack Collison, who has played and coached for West Ham.

By ages 15 and 16, Yuill was missing two or three days of school to practice.

“It was very intense, but it was an unbelievable experience training with unbelievable players,” Yuill said.

One of those players and Yuills’ friend is Declan Rice. Rice plays on the West Ham First Team and has played for the English National Team. According to Transfer Markt, Rice’s market value is more than 50 million euros, which is about 57 million dollars. For scale, according to ESPN, the highest transfer fees ever were 256 million dollars, 207 million dollars and 136 million dollars.

“West Ham is one of the teams that produced so many great players over the years like Frank Lampard, who’s the manager of Chelsea, and Michael Carrick, a coach at Manchester United, who won the champions league and played for England,” Yuill said.

Yuill said Marquette’s facilities are on par with, if not better than, the facilities in the Premier League or Championship League.

“We have facilities that would probably be as good or better than many places because of the finances of it,” Bennett said.

While the most known teams in the world like Barcelona and Real Madrid have great facilities, Bennett said most facilities are not as good.

Yuill’s professional experience came with a cost.

“A lot of your friends (are) wanting to go out to the pictures or to the cinema, and obviously I had a game or training and couldn’t go,” Yuill said.

While he had to make sacrifices, Yuill said it was worth it. He points to where he’s at now as the result of the sacrifice.

“I had a great experience,” Yuill said. “It was a great footballing background to grow up on. It served me well for the future, not even as a football player but as a person as well.”