An injury list longer than an Icelandic IOU is becoming almost as much of a West Ham tradition as the nurturing of home-grown talent, and the inevitable consequence of the former is to create yet further opportunities for the latter. Step forward Zavon Hines. The 20-year-old Anglo-Jamaican has done much to lift the mood at Upton Park, his adroit strike against Aston Villa on Wednesday bringing a first league win since the opening day of the season to inch the club out of the bottom three and help conjure a switch of perception. In a flash, nine games without a win has become three without defeat.
Hines' opportunity came through Carlton Cole's hamstring injury and with the England striker unlikely to feature against Everton at Upton Park tomorrow, Hines is set for only his fourth Premier League start – his last was against Liverpool, where his pace caused Jamie Carragher no end of problems. He remains, though, a work in progress, as a glaring miss in that game demonstrated, and has been working with Zola on his finishing – "look at the net, not the keeper," is his manager's advice.
Alongside Hines tomorrow will be fellow academy graduates Mark Noble, making his 100th league appearance at the age of 23, James Tomkins and Jack Collison, while Junior Stanislas will be on the bench. Hines, Tomkins and Stanislas are all in the current England Under-21 squad; already this season, the club have provided players to the national cause at every level from Under-16 to the senior side. The future may be financially bleak, but there is solace to be found around the training ground at Chadwell Heath.
Hines' winner on Wednesday, a brisk switch from left foot to right followed by a sharp finish, has raised spirits at a club that has not had its troubles to seek. "The confidence is up for Everton," said Noble, who enjoyed his own return to form against Villa. "It will be fantastic if they [the crowd] get behind us and drive us on to another win. It was so emotionally charged because we needed the win so much. It was brilliant and now, hopefully, we can kick on. It is an unbelievable feeling when you score a goal like that. You just feel like crying.
"The crowd were unbelievable and they didn't get on our backs. That is what we need with what we are going through at the moment. I feel I have got a right to say that because I am a West Ham fan and I have been brought up round here."Reuse content