West Ham failing their famous academy if prized youngster Josh Cullen is allowed to leave

West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic

West Ham United are not called the Academy of Football for nothing but is that reputation in real danger.

West Ham United's Mark Noble celebrates after Southampton's Steven Davis scores an own goal and the third for West HamMark Noble is the only academy graduate in the current West Ham first team

Yes the Hammers may be the self-styled Academy of Football but it is with good reason.

The club has a long and proud history of producing top professional footballers who have gone on to represent their country, none more famous than World Cup winning trio Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

Under Sam Allardyce in recent years the conveyor belt of talent seemed to have stopped with many supporters blaming the manager for failing to develop the club's promising talents into first team players.

That looked to have changed when he was replaced by Slaven Bilic, who memorably made 16-year-old Reece Oxford the club's youngest ever player as he turned in a man of the match display on his debut and the Croat's first Premier League game in charge.

He has been rarely used since, though, and like Allardyce before him, Bilic too has thus far failed to truly blood the likes of Oxford, Reece Burke, Martin Samuelsen, Marcus Browne, Josh Cullen and Toni Martinez.

Recent rumours of moves for ageing players likes John Terry, Jermain Defoe and Pablo Zabaleta - who will be 37, 35 and 33 respectively next season - has added weight to the suggestion the club is failing its Academy of Football status.

And news this week that highly-rated Cullen - who turned in a man of the match performance against Champions League finalists Juventus in pre-season before going on a season-long loan to Bradford City - could be heading for a summer exit might be the straw which breaks the camel's back.

West Ham United's Josh CullenWest Ham United's Josh Cullen

Cullen has put in a string of superb performances for the Bantams this season earning him a lengthy run of Man of the Match awards and helping the League One side into the playoffs.

A virtual ever present for the club this season, Cullen was named the club's player of the year and scooped no fewer than four end of season gongs, emulating Burke who was Bradford's player of the year last season following a similar loan deal.

West Ham fans are well aware of the Republic of Ireland youngster's talent after watching him put in that hugely impressive display against a strong Juve team.

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic and Reece Oxford as he is substitutedWest Ham manager Slaven Bilic and Reece Oxford

But the player has this week admitted he may have to leave the club permanently this summer if he cannot realise his dream of becoming a first team regular in East London.

Cullen told West Yorkshire Sport: "My dream has always been to break into the first team at West Ham but I'm aware that might not happen."

Supporters will undoubtedly be concerned at the prospect of losing such a promising talent.

But it is indicative of the current situation at the club with a host of young players are struggling to break through despite the West Ham's miserable performances and recruitment this season.

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