Joe Cole struggled to fully express how impressed he was with West Ham teenager Ollie Scarles’ performance against FCSB on Thursday night.
The 16-year-old started the dead rubber Europa Conference League trip to Romania and produced a sensational performance far beyond his years.
Despite being the sixth-youngest player in the club’s long history the teenager was in with a shout to be man of the match in a team with multiple shining displays, while putting in at least three top quality crosses from the left, two of which almost led to goals for fellow debutant Divin Mubama, and the third ending in Pablo Fornals’ second in the 3-0 win, and Cole was wowed by what he saw.
Speaking live after the game on the BT Sport match coverage on Thursday night (3 November, 10.10pm) Joe said to fellow pundit and namesake Carlton about one of the youngster’s crosses to Mubama: “This is glorious Coley, look at that, from Scarles. Just fed it into that area.”
Carlton replied: “That’s also like telepathy isn’t it? Because they know exactly where they’re going to move. Scarles is just going to put it in that position and knows Divin is going to be there.”
Joe then continued over replays of an inch-perfect sliding tackle: “The other side of his game was excellent. Honestly, is was one of the top two or three players on the pitch tonight, for a 16-year-old lad that is outstanding”.
On the cross that was parried out to Fornals he said: “This ball here is glorious. There’s not many players who can. The timing, the touch, when to deliver it, what pace. He was brilliant from start to finish.
Then finally on a chance of his own that went narrowly wide he added: “Between the two of them, Scarles and Divin, they were absolutely outstanding. This would have been the cherry on the cake.”
“He’ll be beating himself up about that one,” Carlton laughed.
The disclaimer that FCSB put up much less of a fight than plenty of opponents will has to be laid out early, as does the fact that the pressure was off with West Ham already qualified.
But having said that, there can’t have been many debuts in European competition for players so young that went much better.
Had the shot that went close gone in, and had he not picked up a late booking for kicking the ball away in frustration, there is an argument to say that it would have been a perfect performance in the circumstances.
But it is only a start, and expecting a player so young to instantly start contributing to the senior side from now on would simply be premature.
There is clearly a lot of talent there, but having played 90 minutes and been close to perfect it is almost inevitable that he won’t do as well next time out, whenever that may be.
It won’t be a matter of going from hero to zero, as even the best in the world can’t be flawless every week, but managed correctly there should be scope to give Scarles a bit more West Ham experience here and there with an eye on getting him developed into a first team player a few years down the line.
He was given the chance to impress and took full advantage, so it was a positive start, but for now that is all it is, and despite the praise he should not be overburdened.