West Ham United defender Tony Brookes has signed his first professional contract with the club.
For 18-year-old Brookes, who joined the Hammers at the age of eight, the one-year deal he signed in the Boleyn Ground trophy room is the culmination of a decade of hard work and dedication.
Comfortable at either right-back or centre-back, Brookes has overcome a difficult 2008/09 season disrupted by a troublesome ankle injury and a bout of glandular fever to regain full fitness ahead of pre-season training for the 2009/10 campaign.
"I feel over the moon," said Brookes. "It's a great honour to be picked by West Ham to get my first contract. The club have had many great players come through the ranks and hopefully I can be the next one.
"I've been here since I was eight and hopefully I can carry on and get into the first team," said Brookes, who named Manchester United and England's former Hammer Rio Ferdinand and Chelsea's Portugal right-back Jose Bosingwa as the defenders on whom he tries to base his own game.
Despite missing most of the last campaign through a combination of injuries and illness, he still managed eight appearances in the FA Premier Academy League and also turned out in the FA Youth Cup tie at Nottingham Forest in December.
"I must have shown what I can do in the past and hopefully I can get out there and show what I can do in the future," he said.
"I had a few injuries and glandular fever at the end of the year, which wasn't very nice. Hopefully I'll push on next year and show people what I can do."
Brookes is good friends with fellow Academy graduates Matt Fry, who also signed his first professional contract with the club this week, and Oliver Lee. Now he is hoping that the trio, along with several other youngsters who made the step-up last season, can make an impact during the coming season.
"Hopefully I can get fit for next season and push on from there," added Brookes. "I'd like to get a good pre-season under my belt and then see how it goes.
"I just want to start playing football again and hopefully if everything goes well I might get some experience in the first team and then who knows from there."