West Ham fly 11,000 miles to pluck young prodigy from 300 footballers at New Zealand training session

West Ham Dugout

West Ham United have cast their net all the way to New Zealand in the search for new talent.

The Hammers are famous for their Academy and have a rich history of launching the careers of many celebrated internationals.

From England's World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore right through to Reece Oxford, who became the youngest player in West Ham's history this season.

Lewis Tiller: remember the name

Well now Auckland teenager Lewis Tiller will get his chance after the club plucked him out of a crowd of 300 at a training session 11,000 miles from East London.

Tiller, 17, has been selected to play for the West Ham Under 18s squad after being spotted by Hammers officials on a scouting mission recently.

Familiar face from home

The young Kiwi will undoubtedly be made to feel more at home by Hammers first team star Winston Reid, who captains the New Zealand national side.

Tiller must have some talent too. He was the only player from the 300-strong training session to be selected to be part of a training and development squad at West Ham's London base.

But West Ham were so impressed they instead selected him to be part of the Under 18 setup.

His old coach is not surprised at the youngster's progress, though.

'It's a huge feat'

Jim Evans, head coach and director of football at Lewis' former club, Waiuku AFC, told the NZ Herald the fact Tiller was the only player to be selected from the entire continent speaks volumes about his talent.

"Definitely, huge, it's a massive deal," Evans told the NZ Herald.

"Lewis was a young, promising player who had benefited both physically and mentally from training and playing with his older teammates.

"To actually be the one picked out of so many players is a feat in itself, it's a huge feat.

"So you have to be surprised and he's probably surprised too but am I surprised with his ambition and commitment to the sport? No."

Perfect timing

Tiller may be signing for the Hammers at just the right time too.

Fans had grown fed up at seeing their famous Academy ignored by former manager Sam Allardyce.

Players like American Seb Lletget were released by Big Sam and have gone on to show they should have been given more of a chance.

But Allardyce departed in the summer and his replacement Slaven Bilic is a manager who cares about the long-term development of the club.

Bilic has a proven track record of developing young talent for the very top particularly during his time with the Croatian national team.

The former defender has also proved this season that age is nothing but a number to him, handing 16-year-old Reece Oxford his Premier League debut against Arsenal in a memorable 2-0 win, in which the teen was voted man of the match.

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