Nick Haycock refused to let an end-of-season defeat at West Bromwich Albion dampen his spirits, as the Development Squad coach looked forward to a bright future for his young charges.

A deflected free-kick on the stroke of half time settled an otherwise even contest in the midlands, a result that saw the Hammers end the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Elite Group in sixth spot.

The U21s boss subsequently insisted that his side's final position was scant reward for their collective efforts throughout the campaign, but was beaming with pride nonetheless.

He told West Ham TV: "Taking this game away, I'm delighted with the players this season. We've given young players a chance on a regular basis and a stat revealed we're the youngest team in the U21s league, which is great news. The league has been a fantastic thing for West Ham United.

"This place is full of good young players who are getting challenged now, playing up, playing with and against older players. I can only see us going onto bigger and brighter things. We've more than competed in this Elite Group and I think we warranted being in that top three.

Having previously suffered a 5-2 reverse at Southampton, Haycock was intent on provoking a reaction from his players, one that was certainly evident in the second half against the Baggies.

He continued: "The message throughout the week was that we didn't want to go out on a whimper, with the poor second-half display against at Southampton. I wouldn't say we got going quite as well as we would have liked, but even then in the first half we still had four or five great opportunities. It was probably an even game.

"We gave a poor goal away right on the stroke of half time and that ended up costing us the game. The second-half display was much better. It showed that we had the quality to score and on another day we might have had two or three."

While Haycock had obviously been keen to end the campaign on a high, successive defeats were not about to detract from all the good work that has proceeded the season's final two outings, both on and off the pitch.

"There are individuals in there who have played the majority of the games. I think George Moncur has had a good campaign, as has Seb Lletget. Of the younger ones coming through, Pelly Ruddock has dropped back into centre-half and has done a fantastic job. Leo Chambers did well prior to Christmas and Elliot Lee has shown that he's a goalscorer at this level.

"We've played this second half of the campaign, regularly without four England schoolboys and some senior players, in terms of U21s, who have been injured. So we know what we've got in that dressing room, and it's just making sure they're professionals on and off the pitch.

"This was our first year as a Category One Academy and we've made great strides. It's a thriving time, and I've told the players, it's down to them as to how far they go. It's all there for them, the opportunity being the main thing, because it's a club that has always had a tradition of producing players. Three years down the line, we're hoping some of this lot are going to be playing in the Olympic Stadium."

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