BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

27 November 2014

BBC Homepage
Travel News

In Pictures

Saving Planet Earth
How We Built Britain

BBC Local Radio

Site Contents 

Contact Us

Club news

Chris Cohen (EMPICS)

Chris Cohen interview

Norwich-born professional Chris Cohen was 16 years old when he made his first team debut for West Ham United, making him the youngest player to turn out for the team in 80 years. The 18-year-old gives us some tips on making it in the beautiful game.

After playing in West Ham's first team, this season the 18-year-old has been on loan at Yeovil Town.

Chris took time out from his training schedule to tell James Hernandez how he got started in football, why Teddy Sheringham is the best footballer he's played with and what advice he'd give youngsters looking for a full-time career on the pitch.

Where in Norwich are you from?

Just off the Dereham Road. I was born in Norwich but only lived there for about the first year of my life. I was brought up in Essex and that’s where I played football for the first time.

How did you first get started in football?

I first got started in football for a team my older brother had played for in Essex. I started playing for them from the age of six, just for enjoyment really but two years later I got scouted by West Ham.

Had you always wanted to play football?

Yeah, always from when I was a little boy. I was lucky because we had a park just down the road from our house and was always down there with my brothers at all hours! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’m living the dream.

How did you get spotted by West Ham?

I was playing for my local Sunday team, Grays Cosmos, when I got spotted by a guy called Peter Brabrook. He was the youth coach at West Ham who came to watch our games, and he invited me for a trial at West Ham. I went for a trial and I ended up signing for the Hammers.

You made your debut at 16 becoming the youngest player to feature in a West Ham team for 80 years – it must have been a great buzz?

It was just brilliant, I mean to get a chance at such a young age was so unexpected. Us going down that season was a bad thing for the club, but it gave me the opportunity when we were in the Championship to push on and be in and around the first team. It was a brilliant experience the first time I played.

And you started that season as an Upton Park ball boy.

Yeah, I was Upton Park ball boy! I was in the squads but I also found myself as ball boy as well.

I think the manager wanted me to do it, just to bring me back down to earth and make sure I didn’t get big-headed or anything, which wouldn’t happen anyway, but I think the manager wanted to make sure!

What team did you support growing up, and do you still follow their results?

I was actually a Norwich fan, and I use to have a few of the kits. I remember as a fan when we came third in the Premier League in 1993.

Obviously when I went to West Ham I was so involved with the club my loyalties moved that way. But I still look out for Norwich’s results and want them to do well.

Did you ever go to any Carrow Road games?

Yeah I did go to a few, I remember going to a Norwich and Ipswich game, not sure which season that was, but it must have been one of the first games I had ever been to.

What’s your best position?

Central midfield is my favourite position, but I have also played left-back and left midfield for West Ham. But this season at Yeovil, I’ve played a load of games in midfield which has been great.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths would be getting the ball down and playing it on the ground and also the physical side of the game.

My weaknesses: I’ve got to work on my right foot, which is bit like a wooden leg still! And scoring goals, which is something I don’t do enough.

What’s it like playing League One football with Yeovil Town? Have you learned lots?

Yeah loads. It's been such a good experience for me coming in for the whole season this year. At West Ham I knew it would be difficult for me to get in the side. So I was allowed to go out on loan, but I actually had a few injuries at the start of the season so it was a bit of a struggle getting out on loan.

But when Yeovil came in, it meant I could stay with my dad, as he actually lives in Yeovil. It’s just great though as I’ve played 26 games in a row and also to be playing 90 minutes every week has been brilliant for me.

You have played Championship and League One football – is there much difference between the two?

The quality is going to be better in the higher leagues and a lot of players playing in the Championship have Premiership experience which makes it a tough league to play in. But the players here in League One, especially the attackers, have great potential to go all the way to the top.

Who’s the best player you have faced?

Last year West Ham played Reading, I was playing left-back and Glen Little was playing right-wing for Reading. And he was a very tricky customer.

He got injured after 30 minutes, but to be fair I was glad to see the back of him because he was very sharp and I’ll think he’ll do well in the Premiership next year.

Who’s the best player you have played with?

It would have to be Teddy Sheringham. He’s one of the legends of the modern game and to be able to just train and play with him was a great experience and one I will never forget.

Do you ever get nervous before a game?

I've got better now but while at West Ham and with the size of the crowds I was terrible for nerves before a match.

I used to go to the toilet quite a lot before games, as things got to me a bit. I've got a lot better since I've been at Yeovil, as I've been playing every week, and knowing that I am playing makes it easier to prepare myself. Nerves still get to me a bit, as I'm about to walk out on the pitch, but once I get playing I'm fine.

What’s the training like as a professional?

It's tough, but it varies depending on if you're in starting 11, which can be very physical. You do train quite a lot, but it’s a superb lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world. Some days you run a lot but you know that comes with the territory of being a professional footballer. 

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

I think it would be Kevin Keen, the reserve team manager at West Ham, who also use to play for the club as well. I first had him as my under-17 coach, then, as I went up the age groups, he became the manager for every team I played for at youth level.  He’s the one who has helped me along the most.

How do you like to relax away from football?

I like to play golf and also snooker. I do like quite a few other sports - I like to get out and do as much as I can. I’m a bit of a summer man rather than winter, when I like to stay in and watch TV most of the time.

Are you a Playstation fan?

I am a big Playstation fan, yeah! I’ve just got a new PSP as well, so we have about 10 of us on the coach to away games all playing Grand Theft Auto.

Pro Evo or FIFA?

Definitely Pro Evo, that’s the one I’ve been playing with my mates for quite a while now. I think that’s the number one game with FIFA quite a bit behind.

What advice would you give to any aspiring young footballers?

You have got to enjoy it, that’s the most important part of it, but try not to feel too much pressure, especially at a young age.

I saw lots of players, when I was younger, whose parents wanted it more than they did themselves. Also work as hard as you can but if you don’t get there, make sure you have something to fall back on. I love playing football and if I didn’t enjoy it I would find something else to do. The money side of it is lovely but you do have to deal with the knock-backs and work hard.

Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

Just playing somewhere on a regular basis would be perfect for me. It's nice to be playing at League One level, hopefully though I will be able to push up to Championship level and maybe the Premiership.

As long as I'm having fun and enjoying my football, that’s all that matters to me.

last updated: 18/04/06
Go to the top of the page

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy