Leo Chambers has praised West Ham United's Academy for helping him to record his maiden appearance in a first-team squad.

The defender, who was an unused substitute for Saturday's 4-1 Barclays Premier League victory over Southampton at the Boleyn Ground, thanked Academy Director Tony Carr and his staff for giving him a top-class football education since he joined the club a decade ago.

The England Under-18 international has been an ever-present for the table-topping Development Squad this season, despite only celebrating his 17th birthday in August. He is hoping to help Ian Hendon's side collect another three Barclays U21 Premier League points when they travel to Bolton Wanderers on Monday evening.

"The same kind of coaching you receive starts from as low as the Under-9s and continues until you reach the Development Squad," he told West Ham TV. "You start training in the way we do very young so it helps you when you reach higher levels."

Chambers confirmed that learning the West Ham way and the development of technical ability is central to the way young players are coached at Little Heath. He believes that approach will stand the club in superb stead over the next few years.

"When I was coming through, we began learning the technical side of the game at around the Under-12 level and now it is starting with the Under-9s. The programme we have got here at the club is very good and the next generation coming through should be out of this world."

With Chambers rock steady at centre-back alongside Academy graduate and friend Jordan Spence, the Development Squad scored a fine 2-0 win at Blackburn Rovers last time out. The 17-year-old is confident of scoring another victory in Lancashire on Monday.

The Brixton-born player said morale among the Hammers' youngsters was at an all-time high as they look to extend their advantage at the top of Group 1. Should West Ham stay at the summit, they will qualify for the post-Christmas Elite League, where they will take on the top sides from all three Groups.

"We have had some good training sessions this past week and the team spirit has been very high so hopefully another win is on the cards. As a squad our target is to get into the Elite League and we are top of the league at the moment but, short-term, our aim is to win the next game."

Leo Chambers

Chambers is also hopeful that continued impressive performances for the Development Squad will push himself and others into Big Sam's plans on a regular basis.

"Long-term, our aims are to push into the first-team and make progress within the club. Playing in the Elite League will definitely help because we will be playing against better teams and that will challenge us individually and as a group."

Academy graduates Rob Hall, Dan Potts, Matthias Fanimo and George Moncur have all featured in the first team already this season, providing an incentive for Chambers and his fellow scholars to follow in their footsteps.

"Knowing that players in the first-team squad have come through the club gives you a great belief in the club and in yourself. They have come through the club, which means that there are opportunities for young players, which is good for us, them and West Ham United."

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