West Ham United Under-18s begin their 2012/13 pre-season schedule with a trip to Ipswich Town on Saturday.

The Hammers, who have taken on no fewer than 13 new first-year scholars, enjoyed a decent 2011/12 campaign that saw them reach the FA Youth Cup fifth round and finish fifth in FA Premier Academy League Group A.

Among the intake are summer arrivals Nathan Mavila and Gines Guzman Rosique, who have joined the club from Wycombe Wanderers and Murcia respectively. The pair will join the likes of Amos Nasha and Kieran Bywater, who have both featured for the first team in recent weeks, in the squad.

Academy Director Tony Carr said he was looking forward to the start of a new campaign, beginning with this weekend's journey up the A12.

"The first two weeks of pre-season have been about conditioning and building up fitness and we go to into our first game away to Ipswich on Saturday.

"We have a squad of about 18 players and hopefully all of them will get on to the pitch and get some minutes under their belts.

"It's about preparing and getting some match practice at this stage and we have matches at Norwich next Wednesday and Everton the following Saturday. We also go to Manchester City in a few weeks' time to break things up a bit, because we always play the south east-based clubs on a regular basis every season so we thought we'd go further north to give them a different experience.

"We are also taking a squad to a tournament in Belgium in early August, which will be another good experience for them."

Carr revealed that the club had taken on a larger than normal number of first-year scholars for a variety of reasons, most notably the high level of talent within the year-group and the fact that the Development Squad will compete in the new Professional Development League in 2012/13.

"It is quite a large number but we felt it was a good year group and we need a squad. With the Development Squad playing in their own league, we didn't want to be too stretched for numbers and didn't want to play too young a team too early in what is quite a physically demanding Under-18 league.

"We do feel that there is some good talent there as two or three of them showed in the first-team game at Southend last weekend. Although it was only a little taster, they showed they weren't overawed by that and showed good potential."

The Academy Director is also excited about the two new arrivals.

"Nathan has come in from Wycombe. We've been looking at him for quite a while and I was pleased we could come to an agreement with Wycombe to bring him to West Ham.

"We've also brought a boy in from Spain who is a young goalkeeper who our goalkeeper coach Jerome John has been following for a number of months and felt was definitely worth taking.

"Hopefully both of them can continue to improve and mature for the future."

Ultimately, while league and cup success would be welcome, Carr insists that producing players for the first team is the Academy's overriding aim and role.

Having seen four graduates make their debuts last season, he is hoping to see more make the step up to Sam Allardyce's squad this term.

"It's our goal to produce players who can thrive at that level and it is a massive challenge for them to step up to the plate and show that they are capable of playing in the first team in the Premier League."

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