West Ham United FC are one of Premier League’s oldest clubs and have set the standard for themselves over several years in English football’s top flight league. 

From Mark Noble to Declan Rice, the West Ham United FC academy has produced some of the best footballing talents across England. It is also among the country’s renowned clubs in terms of identifying and churning out future talents in football.

19-year-old Jamal Baptiste is the latest academy player to scale up the ranks. Having started out as a defender, Baptiste went from strength to strength, earning a move to the U18s from the youth side before making it to the current U21 side, having first signed his professional contract at the age of 17.

In the previous season, the defender became the side’s second youngest representative at the U23 level while also representing the English national team at the U18 level.

The centre-back is part of the West Ham United FC squad in the Reliance Foundation presents Premier League Next Generation Cup. The Hammers ended up in second place after being drawn alongside South African side Stellenbosch FC and Hero Indian Super League (ISL) sides ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC in Group A.

One of the most important player in the squad, Baptiste is playing in India for the first time and is looking to contribute to the best of his abilities with his current squad.

“I am finding it quite well. It’s obviously a different challenge that I have been able to come across. Most teams that I played in the last couple of years, I was the younger player. But, obviously, looking at the older players back there and seeing how they added themselves in a big group with younger players, it’s been done quite well and it’s a good experience. You can tell them (younger players) what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong,” Baptiste said in an interaction with The Times of India.

The Hammers opened their PL Next Gen Cup campaign against ATK Mohun Bagan in the first game followed by Bengaluru FC in the next one. While the Mariners drew them level to 1-1 in the opening game, the English side bounced back in their second one against Bengaluru FC, netting past four against the Blues besides keeping a clean sheet.

For a player who has shared dressing rooms with the first team of West Ham United FC, getting familiar with different playing styles isn’t uncommon for Baptiste. Having gained exposure after going up against several teams coming from leagues of other nations, the player found a similarity in the playing style of Indian clubs and Premier League clubs.

“I think the mentality obviously of getting off and keeping the ball is quite the same (between English and Indian teams). I think they know when to press and when not to press. I think playing different teams that we probably will never face during the season and experiences of playing different types of teams have been very great,” the defender quipped.

Football has witnessed exponential growth upon getting acquainted with different cultures, with several coaches and clubs laying emphasis on it for nurturing the youth into better professionals. Reflecting on his time in India, Baptiste has enjoyed gaining exposure to Indian culture and has experienced multiple activities apart from football.

“I really like it and I would like to come again to india. It’s something that I have never come across in my life before. All the cultural stuff that we have done, meeting new people, it has been lovely,” he concluded.