Date:Sunday January 28 2007
Permanent Ephraim move would delight faithful
The Academy`s loss would certainly be Colchester United`s gain should youngster Hogan Ephraim choose to swap the claret and blue jersey for stripes permanently, as was suggested last week when he extended his current loan contract in Essex.
An England Under-19 starlet, whose Colchester deal will now expire at the end of the season, he is yet another product of the prolific Upton Park youth set-up, and has appeared seven times for the U`s since an autumn arrival in November.
His performances have been of such quality that Geraint Williams was eager to keep him beyond the initial two-month lease, and also suggested that Ephraim may join on a full-time basis come the summer.
Unlike so much other talent regularly flooding out of the East End, the 18-year old prodigy would leave West Ham willingly. While the names Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe form part of a lengthy list of pillaged prospects from the East End, Hogan has indicated a desire to stay in East Anglia, having developed a hunger for regular first-team football.
In the words of manager Williams: "He is exactly the kind of player we like at this club." Encouraging times at Colchester United, these, where it has become customary for the U`s to mentor Premier League prospects with the best type of learning-aid: starting appearances.
Hogan, following the example set by Manchester United`s Ritchie Jones earlier in the season, has since been joined at Layer Road by Manchester City youngster Matthew Mills, who arrived last week.
The man christened 'Hulk` by some of the Colchester faithful, whose contact with West Ham expires in June, claimed he would be happy to secure a long-term deal in Britain`s oldest recorded town should the opportunity arise, but wants to thrash it out at the conclusion of the current campaign. Due to his age, a tribunal would be required to decide any potential fee, and another obstacle preventing a switch could be West Ham`s willingness to cling to a highly valued asset.
Although Hogan is yet to open his goal-scoring account for the U`s, he has made an impact, with some telling contributions from the bench against both QPR and Leicester City from the bench. Ephraim also made his first start for the U`s at Portman Road in a recent local derby against Ipswich Town, in which he demonstrated his attacking prowess and versatility, without actually hitting the string.
It will surely not be long before Ephraim is among the goals at Colchester; he famously scored four times during a youth International fixture against Russia.
While the U`s have seen a limited amount of transfer activity during the current winter window, Hogan`s extended loan spell could be the most astute piece of what little business there has been. If it eventually translates into a concrete transfer, loaning Ephraim will turn out to be a fantastic coup.
Date:Sunday January 28 2007
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