As West Ham United prepares to celebrate the achievements of its Academy on Saturday against Manchester United, Tony Carr MBE has spoken of his belief that youth academies will continue to play a vital role in the future of the Premier League.

The Academy Director has been instrumental in producing countless home-grown players who have gone onto star in the famous Claret and Blue during his 40 years with the Club.

Saturday's evening kick-off at the Boleyn Ground against reigning champions United will be a celebration of the Academy, with interviews from past and present Academy graduates, and Carr himself, being conducted before the match and at half-time.

Speaking to the Official Programme ahead of the clash the 63-year-old revealed how things have changed since he first took up a coaching role with the Club back in 1973.

"When I first started we trained on the forecourt at Upton Park with plastic footballs and if someone had left their car on the forecourt overnight then we'd have to play round it.

"We were playing in the tunnel underneath the East Stand using beer crates as goals. It's changed massively, facilities have improved, the role of the youth coach has been enhanced and players are now starting to see the value of that.

"Staffing levels have improved and to be fair, at present, Mr Gold and Sullivan have bought into our philosophy in terms of trying to develop future West Ham players."

Producing young British players has become increasingly hard as the number of British players plying their trade in the Premier League has plummeted to around 33%.

Despite this the Hammers have always given home grown players a chance to make the grade and currently boast a squad peppered with British players.

Carr admits the task of producing players has got tougher over the years, but insists it remains vital for clubs like West Ham.

"We're not a club like the top sides that can go and spend millions and millions of pounds on players every season.

"Manchester City are a one-off with a rich sheikh owner, Chelsea started it with Roman Abramovich, Tottenham spent £105 million on players last year, we're not a club that can do that so there's a big reliance on producing your own players.

"As tough as it is, and it's getting tougher, it remains a fact of life that we have to produce our own players to compensate for the fact that we can't compete at the top end financially."

During his time working in the Academy, Carr has helped produce a number of players who've gone on to forge excellent careers in the Premier League and even at international level, and he says there is an immense amount of pride when a player makes the cut.

"The boys come in at eight-years-old and for a boy to come through at 18 or 20, or the average age of 23 now, it's a long, long journey. It could be as long as 15 years from the time he signs to the time he makes it in the Premier League.

"There's been a lot of time, work and effort that's gone into trying to produce that young player but if he does make it, and crack it at that level, then there's an immense amount of pride for everybody involved.

"I think the fans can also identify with a young boy that's been in the Academy since he was a youngster and will give him the opportunity to prove his worth."

*You can read the full interview with Tony Carr MBE in Saturday's 84-page Official Programme which features exclusive interviews with Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters MBE, Kevin Nolan, Guy Demel, and much, much more.

To order your copy now please click here or download the digital issue from 9am on Saturday here.