West Ham United Development Squad star Marcus Browne was delighted with his match-winning four goals in Monday night’s Premier League 2 Division One thrashing of Everton U23s at the Merseyrail Community Stadium, branding it “up there with one of my better days in football.”
The 20-year-old struck once in the first-half and three times in the second-half on Merseyside to help the Young Hammers to a third consecutive league victory on the road, having this to say to the club’s Official Website WHUFC.com after the game:
“It’s definitely up there with one of my better days in football, I don’t think you go into any game thinking you’re going to score four goals, but I scored four and I’m delighted.”
The show-stopping, Man of the Match display came a mere four days after Browne scored the only goal in the narrow away win over Manchester City’s Elite Development squad at the City Academy.
“It’s been a difficult week with two games in five days and we’ve got through it. I think the goal on Thursday gave me a bit more confidence going into today’s game and I feel like I’m playing with confidence and got four goals because of it.
“It was a massive performance from the boys all around. We really dug in and stuck to the game plan and any game away from home that you win 4-0 in, it’s always massive, I’m obviously delighted to have scored all four goals.”
The three points took Terry Westley’s boys, who are enjoying their first season in Division One of the PL2 after promotion via the play-offs from Division Two last season, up to fifth in the standings.
Having been in the top four for much of the early part of the campaign, falling away slightly in the middle, they are now firmly back in the reckoning to finish fourth or above, just three points off Swansea City in that fourth place and five points behind the leaders of the league Leicester City.
Part of the young team’s revival has been down to the return from injury and form of danger man Browne after the attacking was sidelined for much of the period between summer and the new year.
The starlet admitted that he struggled during his time out through injury and that it hasn’t been easy settling back into the swing of things, something he made look simple.
“It wasn’t easy being out for so long but the first couple of games back are where you’re getting back into it and you’re lacking a bit of fitness.
“You feel like you’re off the pace a bit and you’ve dropped down a few levels and you’re behind the boys.
“But I feel like I’ve built myself up and I’m good fitness-wise now and I’m getting confidence in the last few games, getting back into it. I feel like I’ve got my touch back and I’m ready and firing,” proclaimed the former Wigan Athletic loan star.
Since he came back and in the absence of Declan Rice, who has graduated up to David Moyes’ first-team this term and Moses Makasi, who is out on loan with Plymouth Argyle, Browne has been given the captain’s armband and clearly knows a thing or two about leading by example.
“I think the aim for us is to get in the top six now and that’s where we need to be and that’s where we’re heading.
“(As captain), I feel like I am a natural leader in the team anyway so (being captain) I feel comes quite naturally for me.”
The bright prospect continued, “I just try to look after the boys as best as I can, get everyone level-headed and I know that we have to work hard week-in, week-out and perform to our best to get results like we did today.”
The attack-minded midfielder’s second match-winning display in succession caught the eye of many supporters, pundits and even ex-players, none more notably than fellow Academy of Football graduate Rio Ferdinand.
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) April 10, 2018
His manager and Academy Director Westley was also full of praise for the charge on a high after his team’s win, announcing the following in a post-match interview with the club.
“Marcus was too much for them (the Toffees) in every sense. He was too quick, too powerful, his finishing was better tonight. He took everything he had.
“He was the standout player on the pitch, congratulated by the referee, and that shows you how good you’ve been, when the referee does that after the game.”
However, what does Westley believe is the secret to the recent success of the 12-year Hammer after he has managed six PL2 strikes this season? All of them coming in the Development Squad’s last five outings.
“I think the behaviour traits for (Browne) are very important and are what you need when you have been injured, you have to look after your body.
“Being out of the team and struggling with those has shown him how professional he needs to be off the pitch,” articulated the former Luton Town manager.
“Also, the responsibility of being captain; he’s led by example tonight and at City. In the dressing room, in training, he needs to try and keep that culture of excellence and those behaviours on and off the pitch, when he gets right, he’s a real handful. Congratulations to him.”
The Under-23 side have two matches of their season remaining and still have a mathematical chance of bringing home the title in their first campaign in the division, travelling to Derby County next Monday and then welcoming Arsenal to the London stadium for their season-ender.
However, off the back of his rich vein of form, Browne could well find himself fighting in a relegation battle as opposed to a title race over the next few weeks if he is to follow in the footsteps of names such as Rice.
Rice and fellow Irish U21 international Josh Cullen have played the most senior football out of the club’s younger crop this season and Browne may indeed be following in them with injuries rife in Moyes’ senior set-up, having only made one previous first-team appearance in his career.
The likes of Pedro Obiang, Andy Carroll and Michail Antonio are all expected to be out for the rest of the season and this could mean opportunity knocks for the No9, but the question remains, will he get his chance? And will he be able to grab it with both hands?