While his players enjoy a well-earned summer break, West Ham United Development Squad coach Ian Hendon is already busy preparing for the 2012/13 season.
Hendon and his players only completed their 2011/12 campaign on 20 May, when they defeated host club Hong Kong FC to win the Plate competition at the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens.
The Development Squad will return to training on Monday 25 June before heading to Russia for the VTB Lev Yashin Cup in Moscow in early July. After a host of pre-season fixtures, the Hammers' second string will compete in the newly-formed Professional Development League.
whufc.com caught up with Hendon at Chadwell Heath this week to discuss his and his team's preparations for the new season.
Hendo, you finished the season with a trip to the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong, where you won the Plate competition. How did the trip go?
IH - We had an end-of-season trip to Hong Kong. I know West Ham had played there a few times before and I've played there myself in the Veterans tournament. It's a good competition and is unbelievably well organised. It was good for the players to go and face some foreign opposition and some strong British sides, including Leicester City and Celtic. It was a good trip all-round.
I understand that the boys had a bit of a late night celebrating the Play-Off final victory, but were up early on the Sunday morning to take to the pitch themselves?
IH - That's right. We were always going to celebrate getting to the Premier League, that's for sure. We did enjoy the evening but credit to the boys because they got up in the morning and won their quarter-final against Hong Kong Dragons 3-0, won the semi-final against Kitchee FC 2-0 and the final 3-0, so they acted professionally on the day and played very well.
While the players are enjoying their summer break, you will be at work earning your coaching badges?
IH - I will. I am off to Belfast in Northern Ireland to continue my own development on a coaching front. I'll be on a week-long course and I'm quite looking forward to that and to adding another string to my bow. It's always good to continue your personal development and this will go towards me getting my UEFA Pro Licence. The gaffer [Sam Allardyce], Macca [Neil McDonald] and Wally [Downes] have all done it and I'm working towards it myself now.
The Development Squad are back in a week before the first team as you are off to Russia in early July?
IH - Yes, we have to come in early as we're off to a pre-season tournament in Moscow. Having spoken to the physios and sports scientists they feel it would be beneficial to come back a week early in preparation for that. We can get a bit of fitness work into the lads and prepare properly for the trip. We don't want to go over there and get injuries because the lads are not ready for it.
The VTB Lev Yashin Cup should be a good challenge for the Development Squad, with some good teams taking part?
IH - We'll be in a foreign country, which is something different in itself. I've never been to Russia myself, so it'll be all new for me. We have had someone go over and visit and take part in a press conference and it looks like a big, well-organised tournament. We have spoken to the German club Freiburg, who won it last year and are taking part again, and their representatives told us how well it was run last time. We're in good hands there and it will be a good test for us during the six days that we're there. Hopefully we'll do well and enjoy it.
You have also organised a number of pre-season fixtures against non-league and npower Football League opposition, which will get the boys ready for the 2012/13 season, haven't you?
IH - The Moscow trip, if we're honest, has probably come a week or two early, but we can't be choosy and it is a good tournament for us to go to. We're going to come back and settle into games against non-league opposition and then build-up to playing against strong League Two sides. My group is predominantly young players so the pre-season will be a good test for them. In total, I think we have got about eleven games, so it'll be tough. But that's what we want because we want to be fit coming out of the end of it and ready to go when the new Professional Development League starts.
Finally, can you tell us about the Professional Development League, which will replace the Premier Reserve League in the new season?
IH - The Premier Reserve League has been done away with and this will be replaced by the Professional Development League, which will mainly be for Under-21 players. It has not been decided how many over-age players will be allowed in each team, but I'm sure it will be three or four. It's a reserve league, as such, but under a different title. Initially, I think it will be regionalised up until Christmas. Then, if you are in the top two you go into another group for after Christmas. The higher you finish in the regional league, the stronger the opposition you will be playing later in the season. It's important we do well in that. It will add some structure and competition to our season, rather than us going here, there and everywhere playing friendlies.