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Leeds United should rekindle interest in West Ham’s Ashley Fletcher

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If he’s not going to play at the London Stadium, he should play at Elland Road

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

During the January transfer window, West Ham United player Ashley Fletcher was linked heavily with a move to Leeds United. It made sense, as it appeared that Fletcher was not going to be featured very much and the East London club was in hot pursuit of Brentford’s Scott Hogan and already had Andy Carroll and Jonathan Calleri as striking options, and while Diafra Sakho was injured, he was expected to be back.

When Slaven Bilic turned down the chance to transfer Scott Hogan in from Brentford, and Hogan instead went to Aston Villa, the reason he gave was that the team already had options that were just as good as Hogan, which most people took to mean that Bilic viewed Fletcher as a first team player for the Hammers.

Apparently that was an incorrect assumption. Despite scoring a goal against Manchester United, Fletcher was frozen out of the West Ham first team, failing to get playing time in the senior squad. Even when Andy Carroll was injured for weeks, Bilic played wingers Michail Antonio and Andre Ayew up front instead of playing Fletcher. After the tribunal with Manchester United was settled by the club, the rumored reason that his minutes were limited so that his price would not increase, he still failed to make appearances for the club. He finally got back into the squad for a few of the later games in the season, but was still second choice to Calleri, who is playing for the Hammers as a result of a dodgy loan deal.

Ashley Fletcher’s goal scoring record
Toni Martinez’s goal scoring record

Ashley Fletcher scored 9 goals in 27 appearances for Barnsley FC on loan from Manchester United in League 1 in 2015-16 before being signed by the Hammers last summer. He also appeared in one EFL Cup match for the Hammers, scoring a goal at Old Trafford against his former club. Many West Ham fans treat him as an after thought, with Spaniard Toni Martinez, he of one goal in 15 League 1 appearances, as the striker of the future. Fletcher is 21 years old and needs playing time in this crucial part of his career. If he’s not going to get it at West Ham, he needs to either go on loan or be sold.

David Gold, the West Ham co-chairman, tweeted about the youth policy at the club, stating that it was “extremely unlikely” that a teenager would break into the team. This was in response to someone asking why Reece Oxford and Reece Burke, two young defenders, were set to go on loan (again) next season. Oxford has spent the past six months on loan at Reading FC and Burke had spent the season on loan at Wigan. Oxford had famously started the 2015-16 season in the Hammers remarkable win at Arsenal, but was quickly withdrawn and sent back to the youth squad once the senior squad started to come to full fitness.

David Gold’s tweet, however, sent a clear message to all of the talented young players at West Ham. The club failed to play any teenagers this season so far, and while teams like Chelsea have stashed their young players on loan deals all over Europe, West Ham’s players aren’t nearly the quality of those for the Premier League champions. Also, while Chelsea has not “blooded” its youth in the first team at Stamford Bridge, teams such as Everton and Tottenham Hotspur have been introducing young players for years with consistently better results than West Ham have gotten stapling their young players to the bench.

Dean Ashton tweeted the thoughts of many fans, responding to West Ham “celebrity” fan James Corden asking “I can't imagine how I'd feel if I was a young player at West Ham reading that from the chairman.”

With the summer silly season upon us, expect to see West Ham linked with multiple strikers, most of which won’t be making the switch to East London. Ashley Fletcher will not get a fair chance to get into the team at West Ham United, and so he needs to move on to keep his career on track. Leeds United were interested in him back in January, and maybe a return to Yorkshire is what he needs to jump start his career. He was brilliant at Barnsley, and while League 1 isn’t the Championship, he’s a proven goal scorer that the team needs to compliment Chris Wood.

While Leeds has also been linked with other strikers, such as Celtic FC’s Leigh Griffiths, Fletcher could be acquired on a loan deal that could later be made permanent if the deal works out. There is no reason to sit quietly while the promotion rivals get ready for another crack at the Premier League. Getting a young striker like Fletcher would do wonders for the Whites’ challenge for promotion next year.