Steve Potts pulled on a West Ham United shirt more than 500 times, but now he is ready for a different claret and blue challenge.

On Saturday, the two-times Hammer of the Year takes charge of the club's Under-18 side for the first time in their Barclays U18 Premier League Tier One Stage meeting with Tottenham Hotspur at Little Heath. Kick-off is at 11am, with admission and parking both free of charge.

The 45-year-old was promoted to the role before Christmas, having previously coached the club's Under-16 and Under-15 sides, and he is relishing his first game in control of West Ham's promising scholars.

Potts sat down with West Ham TV to talk about his excitement at starting his new job, his memories of playing alongside a young Joe Cole and his pride at the form of son Dan.

"I'm really looking forward to my first game in charge," he said. "The appointment was made before Christmas so it's been a few weeks now so I'd like a few games to come round for the boys, really.

"We have done our first week of proper training this week ahead of our first league game, which has fallen at a funny time because the first team have their FA Cup replay at Manchester United on Wednesday and the Development Squad are also playing on Monday night against the same opposition.

"It's a little bit up in the air squad-wise with who is playing where, but we'll nail it down and go from there."

While his new post is Potts' first full-time coaching role at the club he served for 17 years as a first-team player, he insists he has no regrets about his decision to give up his former profession as a London taxi driver to take the job.

"It was part-time with the Under-16s but I was involved with the Under-15s as well, so I was over at Little Heath and Chadwell Heath most days doing something, without it actually being full-time. I've been around the place a lot of over the last couple of years.

"I hope this means the taxi keys can be hung up now! I love coaching and trying to help the boys along the best I can."

Potts believes his own experience of graduating from the Academy of Football - albeit all the way back in 1985 - means he knows what the club's youngsters are going through as they aspire to be awarded a first professional contract.

"My intention is to pass my experiences in on. Obviously, I came through under Tony Carr's guidance as a youth-team player and he is still about and he has been alongside me this week, which has been good.

"I explained to the boys on Thursday that when you are 12 or 13, the club is looking at your potential, but now it is down to the nitty-gritty and we expect you to start producing. If they have got something about them, they could be in the first team within the next year or two - it's that important a time for them."

One player who made the step up from Academy to first team was Joe Cole, who made his debut alongside Potts in an FA Cup third-round tie with Swansea City in January 1999.

The new Under-18s coach remembers the young Cole's emergence at Chadwell Heath fondly.

"The big memory I have of Joe was when he first joined in a training session with the first team and Harry Redknapp put a session on with Joe in mind. He had such potential that he was running at us defenders and we couldn't get near him!

"In the end, Steve Lomas just kicked him because that was the only way to stop him! He is such a fantastic talent and it's just weird that he's gone full circle and he's back here again - it's good.

"Joe is the sort of player who wants to be playing - he's not going to be content with being on the side. I think he's a great signing and hopefully he can go from strength to strength as he gets more games under his belt."

To watch Potts' full seven-minute West Ham TV interview, including his view on son Dan's return to first-team action against Manchester United and his thoughts on the Hammers' fine defensive record, log in or subscribe now by clicking on the link below.

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