Blair Turgott and his Development Squad team-mates have enjoyed an outstanding start to the 2012/13 Barclays U21 Premier League season.
West Ham United's young professionals have won seven of their opening nine matches and go into Friday's away fixture at Reading five points clear at the top of the Group 1 table.
With the prospect of taking on the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the Elite Group Stage after Christmas, Turgott is relishing the competition after the Development Squad spent last season playing only friendly matches.
"It's definitely been a good season so far," the England Under-19 winger told West Ham TV. "As the season has gone on, we've got stronger and stronger. We've not always played the best football but we've been grinding out results and, at the end of the day, that's what it's about when you're in a league. Finishing top of our group and going into the next phase is what we're targeting.
"It's better playing in a league because you're playing for points and you get that winning mentality from early in the season. We obviously want to win every game but when you're picking up points in a league format, you think about every team you're playing against and see where they are in the table. It gives you more structure to your season."
Turgott has started seven of the Development Squad's nine league matches, scoring twice, while six of his team-mates have started at least eight games. The 18-year-old believes that having a settled team has helped Ian Hendon's side to put together a superb series of results.
"The boys have stuck together throughout the whole season so far, which is good for our bonding and the mentality in the team. Everyone knows that you have to have a good game or else there will be someone else looking for your shirt. Every game is vital.
"There have been five or six boys who have played every game and that has been testament to their form and their character."
The winger himself has been content with his own form and is now aiming to emulate team-mates Rob Hall, Dan Potts, Matthias Fanimo, George Moncur, Dylan Tombides and Leo Chambers by graduating to the first-team squad.
"I think I've done all right. As the season has gone on, I've got more and more involved. It's all about assists and goals and doing well for the team.
"Obviously I want to be one of the boys who gets a call-up as well. I'm happy for them because I've known a lot of those boys since I was young and seeing them getting their chance can only be a good thing for me. It's given me an incentive to keep playing well and that could be me soon."
Concentrating on the shorter term, Turgott is targeting a sixth straight win and fifth consecutive clean sheet when the Hammers take on the Royals at their Berkshire training base on Friday. However, he knows it will be no easy task against a Reading side who sit fourth in the Group 1 table.
"That is the pressure that comes with being top of the table - everyone wants to beat you. Obviously with us being West Ham as well, everyone wants to beat us and we have got to be on our game. The boys will have to put in another good performance and, if we do that, I'm sure it'll be enough to get another three points."
Turgott has also been named, alongside club-mate Dan Potts, in the England Under-19 squad for a friendly international with Finland in Telford on Tuesday 13 November. For more information about the game, click here.
Friday's fixture at Reading will be played behind closed doors.