West Ham United Development Squad coach Ian Hendon has hailed his players' physical condition on their return to pre-season training this week.
Hendon welcomed his players back from their summer break on Monday and was delighted to meet a fully-fit group looking lean and ready to get down to business.
The Development Squad head off to Russia for the VTB Lev Yashin Cup in Moscow between 12-15 July before returning to England for a host of challenging pre-season matches ahead of the newly-formed 2012/13 Professional Development League campaign.
"I've been delighted with the lads," Hendon confirmed to West Ham TV. "They came back on Monday for a bit of screening and fitness testing and to have them all back fit and well was a bonus because this time last year we already had a couple out for the start of the season. We're fit and raring to go, as they say.
"We'll get them a bit of conditioning and will have them ready to go to Russia in about ten days. We've got a pre-season tournament there that we'll have them all ready for. It's about minutes on the pitch, rather than winning, although that would be nice. It's about getting ready for August.
"It's a big tournament out there, I'm told. We have been invited over and the first team doing so well and getting promoted obviously helped.
"The training ground is fantastic, but it's nice to get away for a week or so because it can get monotonous being in the same place for six or seven weeks on the trot. It'll be nice to play some foreign opposition as well so we're all looking forward to it."
Hendon enjoyed a long playing career himself with Tottenham Hotspur, Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnet - among others - but admitted the game has changed since his playing days.
Back then, some players would let themselves go over the summer before having to get back into shape in pre-season, but the modern-day West Ham youngsters evidently take their fitness more seriously.
"The days are long-gone when they finish in May and don't do a thing until pre-season, coming back having put on weight and body fat as they used to in my day!
"They're professional and have off-season plans and they have come back fit and healthy and it looks like they have stuck to the plan. To start with, that is a bonus."
While his players will be training for the next fortnight, Hendon already has an eye on a packed schedule of pre-season matches that will see his team travel far and wide as they prepare for the new campaign. At the same time, Hendon said the opposition clubs are looking forward to welcoming West Ham to town.
"A lot of non-league clubs want to play us because it gives them a bit of revenue and helps them out, as well as helping us out. We've got four games this year at Thurrock, Grays, Welling and Dartford.
"I know a couple of the managers at those clubs so we can help them out then we will do that, while they will also be competitive games.
"We then finish off against AFC wimbledon, Northampton and Dagenham and Redbridge with West Ham United XI matches so we could have senior professionals involved in any of those games. Even if they are Development Squad matches, they will be competitive and the other side will know they have been in a game."
Development Squad/West Ham United XI pre-season fixtures
(All matches AWAY)
12-15 July - VTB Lev Yashin Cup (Moscow, Russia)
20 July - Grays Athletic (Rush Green Stadium, 7.45pm)
21 July - Thurrock (Ship Lane, 3pm)
24 July - Dartford (Princes Park, 7.45pm)
28 July - Welling (Park View Road, 3pm)
4 Aug - AFC Wimbledon (Kingsmeadow, 3pm)
7 Aug - Northampton Town (Sixfields, 7.45pm)
11 Aug - Dagenham and Redbridge (Victoria Road, 3pm)