Carlton Cole raved about West Ham right-back Jeremy Ngakia, when speaking to Sky Sports, labelling the teenager as ‘immense’. He also praised the youngster for his ability to adjust to the pace of Premier League football so quickly.
The 19-year-old has only made two senior appearances for the Hammers – both against Liverpool, and he has really impressed.
Ngakia has been thrown in at the deep end against arguably Europe’s best football team, on two separate occasions. And he hasn’t disappointed.
The West Ham youngster’s two displays against Liverpool have probably earned him the right to start at right-back for the foreseeable future. At least until Ryan Fredericks returns from injury.
And Cole, who made 293 appearances for the Hammers, told Sky Sports just how impressed he has been with Ngakia so far:
“I thought his concentration and focus on Monday night was immense. To hold his own against someone like Sadio Mane, and other players like Andy Robertson, was a measure of his quality. Jeremy is a natural defender. I think he started as a winger, but he has that natural instinct to defend – his reading of the game and sense of positioning is very, very good.”
Cole then suggested that he had his doubts that Ngakia would adjust to the Premier League so quickly:
“When Jeremy got his chance – and I’m talking about the first game against Liverpool at home, I was worried for him. Not because I doubted his ability, but simply because you can just never really tell how a young player will cope. But he was outstanding in that fixture, and he was outstanding again on Monday night.”
In his two Premier League appearances, Ngakia has racked up eight tackles, three interceptions, four clearances and six ball recoveries. He has also won 17 individual duals and five aerial battles (premierleague.com).
The youngster has proven that he has what it takes to succeed at the very highest level. And if he continues to work hard, and get regular game-time, there is no reason why he won’t be able to do just that.
It’s Southampton at home up next for West Ham. And Ngakia must surely start that game ahead of Pablo Zabaleta.