The new, unknown, West Ham manager Chris Darwen has reason to be feeling somewhat smug as we meet in his plush training ground office. Seven points from his first three Premier League games in charge plus a successful navigation to the Europa League group stages suggest that Darwen might surprise a few of the naysayers in the international media.

Since accepting the offer from Sullivan, Gold and Brady to follow in the shortlived footsteps of Slaven Bilic, a favourite with the Upton Park crowd but a man who was not inspired by the over commercialisation of the club, Darwen has spoken in brief about his “manifesto” for West Ham and his desire to reinstate some kind of identity.

That’s the kind of hipsterish phrase that wouldn’t go down well in the real East End, I am told. I suggest this to Darwen as we settle in for our interview, and he fires me a curt look. The manager, although not from the East End of London by birth, clearly feels a connection to the area through key influences in his life. Clever cliche or soundbite aside, reinstating an identity is something that he feels needs to be addressed at West Ham United Football Club. “As I mentioned in The Manifesto the club has moved so far from its roots, and I don’t just mean to the London Stadium,” offered Darwen, sipping an espresso.

As I walked into the club for our interview, I could sense the jarring of the past and the present. The modern West Ham are corporate, they have vast salaries to pay, debt to clear and stakeholders to appease and no, I do not mean the fans. Yet the real West Ham is also a contradiction. Sure, the fans want to see a club that is true to its natural identity, but they also want to dine at the top table, to see the best players and, when it comes down to it, win every game playing attractive “West Ham” football, don’t they? Or is that just my impression?

“I don’t think you are a million miles away in that observation,” said Darwen. “West Ham fans are proud of their history and rightly so. Equally, the football world is changing quickly, whether Hammers fans like that fact or not. This isn’t to say we, as a football club, have to go the whole hog and completely abandon our principles, but also we cannot afford to completely ignore the changing world we are in. Of course, we would all love a team of world class local lads wearing the Claret and Blue. But for the club to be in a position not to have to sell them off….”

His voice tailed off, alluding to the fact that West Ham have had a squad of that ilk in the not too distant past. Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Joe Cole all came through the academy at the same time but were sold for financial over football reasons.

“We have to be realistic. We have some talent in the academy, but it would be unfair of me to put the pressure on them that they have to be the next Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst or Joe Cole tomorrow,” Darwen continued. “We have a responsibility to get a clear pathway in place for them to be able to progress, to be the best they can be.”

On that point Darwen has already been restructuring the club behind the scenes. Peter Drake has been promoted from the U18 squad to coach the first team and Mark Phillips has moved up from U18 manager to assist Steve Potts with the U23 squad. All this was done to create space for Rio Ferdinand to return to the club and cut his coaching teeth with the U18’s.

“Why did we do this? Well it was simple. I believe that if you are a local kid wanting to break into the West Ham first team, who is best qualified to give you the coaching and advice to make that happen?” It seems a valid point. Many clubs would have removed Phillips and Drake, but Darwen sees them as vital parts of a coaching set up that has plateued since the departure of Tony Carr. “They know the young players, and as and when those young players get a chance in the U23’s or the first team, it will help them to see coaches who nurtured them from a young age.” Again, valid points.

Darwen has also looked to bring in coaches with a West Ham or local connection. Former England striker Teddy Sheringham is on his coaching team, and former manager Alan Curbishley has been brought in as his assistant. Why?

“It just made sense really. I spoke to Aidy (Boothroyd, current England U21 manager) to get some advice as he was a young manager trying to make an impression and he said I should get someone in who knows the game inside out. I didn’t need another young buck alongside me, agreeing with my decisions. It worked for him with Keith Burtenshaw at Watford, so I was delighted that Alan was up for it.”

In his few games in charge, it is clear Darwen wants to bring young academy players into the first team picture. Goalkeeper Sam Howes, midfielder Joe Powell and left back Vashon Neufille all featured in preseason, with Howes and Powell being with the first team squad since the start of the competitive action alongside back in favour Reece Oxford.

“It’s important. And they are not there just as a token gesture, a nod to the fans. I rate Howesy, and I think given time he will go on to be West Ham’s number one. As for Joey, once he matures and fills out a bit he can be as good as he wants to be.”

Yet if Sam Howes is that good, why sign 21-year-old Kepa from Athletic Club Bilbao? Darwen responded, “Well that was just common sense. Kepa is three years older than Sam, and three years better. We knew we could get Kepa for £6m or so, and that Adrian was wanted by Warnock at Cardiff and the savings in wages balanced the books. Kepa will be with us for a few seasons for sure, but then being a Bilbao lad he wants to go back and play in La Liga. That works for me, providing he settles in here, and he’s been pretty damn good so far.”

That much is true, Kepa was one of the main reasons West Ham looked so comfortable in their opening day victory over Liverpool at the London Stadium. The final result of 3-1 looked more comfortable than it was, and the young Basque on his Premier League debut excelled.

Darwen has been moderately active in the transfer market in his short time at the club, controversially selling the club’s best player to Monaco for what appeared to be a bargain €18m.

“It was clear from the day I got here that Dimitri wanted to go back to France. I had no problem with that as I could not see where he was going to fit into our structure. We could have played him up top, sure, but I have Zaza, Carroll, Calleri and now Boye all perfectly capable of doing that and not costing me €125k a week.”

Was it just the wages then?

“It had a lot to do with it. I cannot justify trying to crowbar that kind of wage packet into a style of play that I am trying to lay out here.”

Darwen has also brought in, on loan, young European talent in Lorenzo Pellegrini from Sassuolo and Daley Sinkgraven from Ajax. He also, surprisingly, opted to sign Vegard Forren from Molde for a mere €250k.

“We needed another experienced left footed defender,” he explained. “Forren fit the bill, and he’s done OK so far.”

West Ham have done OK so far, it is fair to say. They followed up their 3-1 win over Liverpool with a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough before a 1-1 draw at Hull. Seven points from the first nine available is a solid start, though Darwen is aware it could quickly become seven points from 12 available considering their next match is against a Manchester United side with a 100% record.

“Of course, that is going to be incredibly difficult. We know that. But most people expected us to maybe have four points by now – people thought Liverpool would turn us over, we’d probably draw at Boro and then beat Hull. It rarely goes the way you would expect.”

So far, Chris Darwen has not been what people would have expected at West Ham. His side are playing open, attacking football in a manner that the West Ham fans always desire. Results have been favourable so far and his intent on including young, local players from the academy is laudable.

Whether all this adds up to a successful campaign however, well only time will tell.