West Ham United are delighted to announce that Under-18s captain Dan Potts has signed a two-and-a-half year professional contract.

Potts, who turned 17 in April, has enjoyed an outstanding season. As well as skippering the youth team, the defender has played regularly for the development squad and was named on the first-team bench at Hull City on 5 November. He also received his first call-up from the United States at U20 level.

Signing his first pro deal marks the next step in the career of a player who, less than two years ago, was given the all-clear following a successful battle with leukaemia.

The teenager, who is comfortable at either left-back or centre-back, is in Sam Allardyce's 20-man matchday squad for Saturday's npower Championship visit of Barnsley, was naturally delighted to put pen to paper.

"I'm overjoyed with it, to be honest," Potts told West Ham TV. "When I first heard, I just wanted to get it done and sorted. It's a big weight off my shoulders and now I can push on with that sorted and try to break into the first team. That's now my main objective.

"I think the length of the contract at my age is important. You can get year-long contracts and the end of your deal soon comes around and you're thinking 'Will I get the next one'. Now I can concentrate on the football side of things.

"It's been a great experience being around the first team boys. They are a great bunch of lads and the gaffer gives me tips too. It's good that they're talking to me because I know that they want to make me a better player. It's good to hear from experienced people.

"Kevin Nolan is a great player to have around the place because he's great with the young lads. It's pleasing."

While Potts has yet to make his first-team debut, he has been training with Sam Allardyce's squad for the past few months and feels ready to take the next step when the opportunity arises.

"It's the level everybody wants to be at. As much as I'm a young boy, when I'm in with the first team then age doesn't come into it. You've got to be playing at the same level as them. There are some great players there and it's great to train with them.

"I'm a young lad and I am going in there looking up to the older players. You have to respect them because they've been there and done it and that's what has got them there. You learn from them and take it in your stride."

For Potts, signing a professional contract so soon after overcoming his illness is a testament to his character. Big Sam is known to admire the youngster's determination and attitude and those traits, as well as his ability on the football pitch, have been rewarded.

"It's a bit longer than 18 months on from it. It was a big thing in my life but that's all in the past and, fingers crossed, in terms of health issues I've got the all-clear.

"I'm looking on the positive side because I can concentrate on my football. Whereas my health issues were my priority, now it can be my football.

"Some minutes on the pitch would be nice, now. Injuries and suspensions can happen at any time - that's football - so I've always got to be prepared for when that chance comes. I've got to take it opportunity, because your time on the pitch is when you can show people what you're capable of."

Finally, Potts had a message for another Academy prospect who has signed his first professional contract and who has made the first-team bench in the past - Dylan Tombides.

The Australia U17 striker is currently undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with testicular cancer earlier this year. Tombides was back at Chadwell Heath on Friday and Potts said all of his team-mates were backing him to get well soon.

"Dylan is a great lad is great to have around the place. He did so well last year and took everyone by surprise by making that step up.

"He's got great character and I'm sure he'll come out of it stronger. I've spoken to Dylan a few times and I know he just wants to get back to playing football, but for the moment his health is the main priority so we wish him all the best."