For any 19-year-old, the possibility of playing in front of 60,000 fans in a contest which represents the pinnacle of English professional soccer must appear daunting.
Not so for Jeremy Ngakia.
The Deptford-born right-back, who missed much of the first half of the season with injury but impressed by the U23s upon his return in December, can now count three West Ham United first-team and Premier League appearances to his name.
After putting in a good performance against Liverpool in London Stadium on his full debut in January, it was his older screen in the return fixture at Anfield which really caught the eye, before him starting Saturday afternoon’s 3-1 win over Southampton.
Speaking after the game, Ngakia admitted the first senior win of his career, cheered on by the resounding London Stadium fans, was part of a group performance he won’t ever forget. And that it came in front of the Claret and Blue Army was all the better!
“That felt amazing,” Ngakia told West Ham TV. “I am happy for the team and happy for the fans. It’s a terrific feeling, incredible — I only need to keep this up.
“I feel the lovers’ love. It only gives me the energy, more energy on the pitch, it is remarkable.”
With typical humility, he added:”I only want to thank the fans because without them I would not have the energy they are giving me, so it is remarkable. Keep it up — please!”
The Hammers went to Saturday afternoon’s game after a tricky run of results but made a confident display to withstand their latest form.
Despite Southampton’s Michael Obafemi cancelling out Jarrod Bowen’s 15th-minute opener, Ngakia and West Ham continued to perform and create opportunities, taking the lead once more before half-time through Sebastien Haller.
Michail Antonio’s strike added a level of comfort to the score-line early in the second half, ratified by some stout defending from the home side, and Ngakia was afterward full of praise for the Hammers’ onscreen display.
“Everyone wanted to get forward but at the exact same time you will need to work well defensively for the group, and I thought the back four were strong,” he observed. “We have just got to keep it up and get more points on the board.
“Occasionally the front three have got into good positions but it does not go our way, but now went our way, so I am happy for them too.”
In terms of his future, Ngakia once more talked with adulthood, citing his desire to play as many matches in Claret and Blue as he could — but conscious that this is only going to happen if he continues to put the hard yards in during training.
“I have just got to keep building on what I have been doing,” he explained. “Obviously I have played three games and I need more, so I have to keep trying my best to remain in the team, keep it up and work hard for the group.
“I’ve just got to keep trying to make it difficult for the boss to not pick me, and keep it up, since the hard work’s paying off and I have got to keep moving, more and more”