The Development Squad faced a number of tough games during pre-season but coach Ian Hendon believes that West Ham United are now reaping the reward of working so hard early on.

Hendon arranged a series of difficult pre-season fixtures against npower Football League opposition, including Northampton Town, AFC Wimbledon and Dagenham and Redbridge, and leading non-league sides. While the games produced a mixed bag of results, the coach believes the tests stood his young players in good stead ahead of the inaugural Barclays U21 Premier League campaign.

That view has been confirmed as the Hammers have stormed to the top of Group 1 on the back of three victories and a draw in their opening five league matches - including a 4-1 thumping of Arsenal at Rush Green on Friday evening.

"I think we are seeing the benefits of a having a tough pre-season, we lost our first game at Rush Green 4-1 to Grays and we have come a long way since then," Hendon said. "It is also worth remembering that we had a lot of these players away with the first team and rightfully so, because that is what the Development Squad is about, but if we can win the league in the process it will be the icing on the cake."

Hendon also expects a number of his squad to be involved against Wigan Athletic in the Capital One Cup third round on Tuesday, having already seen Rob Hall, Dan Potts, George Moncur and Matthias Fanimo appear in the second-round win over Crewe Alexandra.

"They haven't done themselves any harm. the assistant manager Neil McDonald watched the Arsenal game and hopefully we will see a few of them on the bench.

"It could be the same lads who were involved last time, it could be a few different ones, but I hope whoever it is they get the opportunity to play in the first team."

One man who has already began to establish himself within the first team is England Under-19 forward Hall, who made his Barclays Premier League debut against Fulham. According to Hendon, Hall has all the attributes needed to become a first-team regular if he continues his fine start to 2012/13.

"If he keeps putting in the performances he has done with us and with the first team, it could be a matter of weeks before he becomes a permanent, established member of the first team.

"He needs to keep performing week in week out and I don't see any reason why he will not do that. He is a great lad to work with, he has so much ability and I am sure he will take his chance when it comes."

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