There has always been a link between West Ham United's Academy and the first team.

Most will point out the many famous players that have started life in Academy before making it through to wear the claret and blue of the senior side.

But the link is not just about the players of the past and present. A new and extremely strong link between Sam Allardyce and his coaching staff and Academy Director Tony Carr and his staff looks to have the future of the Academy in good hands.

Assistant manager Neil McDonald, who runs professional ProSoccerSessions for coaches of all levels, gave an in-house session at the Hammers' Chadwell Heath training ground to Academy coaches recently.

Working alongside the session McDonald was giving to those coaches on the course, Academy coaches joined in and took part in demonstrations and exercises based on roles and responsibilities in defence.

McDonald said: "I was asked by Tony [Carr] and Paul [Heffer, assistant Academy Director] to put on an in-service coaching session for their coaching staff, working alongside my ProSoccerSessions and this is what I did, mixing the two together.

"It was all about roles and responsibilities in defence, working in units and then as 11v11 in different formations. I did a PowerPoint presentation on what I was going to do and how I was going to go about it.

"It went really well, I enjoy doing these sessions anyway but I got great feedback from the Academy coaches and that can only be good for the club as a whole."

It was the first time such a session had been held for the Academy coaching staff by a member of the first-team coaching staff.

Carr explained: "We have obviously watched training sessions for the first team, but this is the first time a senior first-team coach has given a session and a presentation like this to the Academy.

"It is great - it is important for us and credit should go to Sam [Allardyce] and Neil for doing this session. It does create another strong link between bringing the young lads through.

"Sam has got the club back in the Barclays Premier League at the first attempt and is keen to develop really strong links in all departments, which, as Neil says, can only bode well for the club. He wants that link and relation from bottom to top and it is another improvement here at the club, with us all working together in the right direction."

McDonald will be holding another ProSoccerSession, which the Academy coaches will be part of, on Wednesday 17 October at the training ground. This time the theme will be roles and responsibilities in attack.

"I was surprised that the Academy has never had this input before, so it made me feel good," added McDonald "Showing them what and how the first-team work and what things they can take to implement with the Academy players was good and will hopefully benefit all round."

Neil McDonald's ProSoccerSession, Wednesday 17 October, Chadwell Heath training ground, 6.30-9pm - for more details and to apply to attend go to

Moore Than a Football Club