Player development is very much a team game at West Ham United.

Nick Haycock takes charge of the Hammers' Under-21 side, overseeing the progress of players as they make the vital step up from Academy to senior football.

With such an important job, Haycock takes huge pride in his role within the Club - a role that sees him work closely with manager Sam Allardyce, assistant Neil McDonald, first-team coach Ian Hendon and Under-18s manager Steve Potts.

Speaking to West Ham TV following Monday's 1-0 defeat at League Two side Southend United - a match his youngsters dominated against Phil Brown's team - Haycock discussed player development, tactics, loan moves and the possibility of the Hammers fielding a side in the non-league.

If that was a boxing match at Southend United, it would have been stopped in West Ham's favour well before the end! What was your assessment of a harsh 1-0 defeat at Roots Hall?

NH: "I read Macca's comments building up the game and Ian came and watched the game and they were saying that Development football is now about playing against League Two opposition and that making mistakes costs you points, because they are now in that world.

"That being said, I was delighted with the way we played. We've been working hard in pre-season on working the ball between the lines and finding the space. I thought we were excellent in the first half and could have scored five or six. It was there for the taking.

"Funnily enough, with us not taking our chances, we knew they would get one through an error or maybe from a set piece and I was disappointed with the way we conceded the goal. If we can just tidy that up, then we're going to have a good season.

"Ian will have been delighted with the performance. There were some young lads playing against professional players who are playing in League Two."

How did you feel your young professionals and scholars measured up against seasoned professionals at Roots Hall?

NH: "We have been saying at meetings with the Premier League in recent months that we would like to put a team to compete in the Conference to give the boys the opportunity of playing for points. It showed [on Monday] that we'd be capable of doing that, or maybe even higher than that.

"It's something that English football probably needs to look at. The Development league is good but that next step at the age of 20 or 21, if you cannot make the first team because the average age is going up because of the money in the game, it's something most definitely worth considering,"

You employed a new 4-4-1-1 formation on Monday, different from the usual 4-3-3 system used. How did you feel your players responded to that change?

NH: "We had two days work on that, I woke up Sunday morning and thought 'We've got to try a different style in a game because we've had three games playing with the holding midfield player. Through the Academy we have a philosophy and we just switch the point around in the midfield so you're playing somebody off the striker.

"We transmitted it to the pitch on Sunday and trained again on Monday with the players who had come back from Germany and I thought they adapted to it well. There were some disciplined performances out there and I was delighted with the boys acquitted themselves."

The Development Squad go to Isthmian League Premier Division side AFC Hornchurch on Saturday for your final pre-season game. What sort of challenge are you expecting and what sort of squad will you take to Bridge Avenue?

NH: "We've had a meeting and the whole goal of pre-season is to challenge everyone at the right level and to make sure everyone gets minutes. Without going into too much detail, some of the boys will go with the first team and the youth team are going to the Eurofoot Tournament in Belgium, so rather than keeping boys to be subs for me the strongest possible team will go to Eurofoot to get that experience.

"We may be a little bit lighter at the weekend, but it's an opportunity for the boys who have not played as many minutes to do so, while giving the utmost respect to Hornchurch, who are our local neighbours and have a good link and association with the Club. We'll be doing our bit for them as well.

"In terms of the game, it'll be interesting to see, because I've got to make sure the lads who played at Southend get themselves equally up for Saturday and not just think 'It's Hornchurch and we're not playing at Roots Hall'. That'll be interesting for their development.

"As I said to the four boys coming back, I thought they were excellent in the way they acquitted themselves because what you don't want is players going away with the first team, thinking they have made it and them not performing well for us. It will always be about putting in the performances that do yourself justice and help you push on in your career, whatever bit of grass you are on."

Finally, a number of our young players will be targeted by other clubs for loan moves. How do West Ham decide which players are suitable for loans and which should remain under your own wing?

NH: "That is done with Sam, Neil, Ian and myself chatting about the player, looking at the club they would go to and making sure they are going to get an experience there and that they are going to play. The major consideration is that they are going to play.

"Myself, Ian and the scouts will go and watch them as much as we can and we also have a back-up support system within the Club in terms of sports science. If the club we send them to doesn't have the facilities or the personnel, we make sure we monitor them through ours to make sure they stay up to date with their programmes because they are still our players.

"They are going out to develop into players we want to play in the Premier League, so it's a group decision and up to Sam ultimately and rightly so."