Ferdinand Progressing

Anton Ferdinand knows he has got a long hard road ahead of him if he is to follow in brother Rio's ranks and break through into the first team.

The teenager, also a centre half, is already punching above his weight in the U19s this season, but last week made his debut for the reserves as a substitute before making his full debut for the second string when Hayden Foxe had to pull out this week.

He played his part - and picked up a booking to boot - in a stirring 2-2 draw with the reserve league leaders, but is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

"You can only go so far at a time; I have been playing in the U19s and when you play for them the next aim is to get into the reserve squad, which I have done recently," he says.

"I am enjoying it a lot; Peter Brabrook and Tony Carr are great coaches so they are helping me along the way.

"To be fair, I have only just started the journey but hopefully it will be a long one - and a successful one."

Anton, who only turned 17 in February, admits he found it tough in the reserves and adds:

"It is much quicker; they were most probably the two hardest games I have ever played, because you haven't got as much time on the ball as you have in U19s football - they shut you down straight away so you have got to think ahead.

"But my aim is to get into that reserve squad regularly, if not this year then next year definitely, and pushing for a place."

Indeed, if the Hammers' young defenders continue to progress there could be quite a few centre halves come through the ranks in the years to come.

Glen Johnson and Izzie Iriekpen - a friend of Rio's who is hoping to earn a new contract this summer and prove he has put his knee troubles behind him - accompanied Anton in the defence on Tuesday and he adds:

"It was good to play alongside Izzie because he talked to me the other day; him and Glen Johnson got me through the game - we are all mates.

"Glen is coming on well, and we've also got James Allen who has scored a couple for the reserves."

He is reluctant to describe his talents, insisting modestly:

"I am not one to say anything about that; I will let the coaches talk about it and say what they have got to say."

What he does stress, however, is that any natural talent he may possess has been augmented to the maximum by the coaching staff at the club.

"The ones that push you through there are Peter Brabrook and Tony Carr," says Anton.

"That's where it all starts - they don't get as much credit as they should, but they have helped me kick off my career, and hopefully I can go from there."

And he also attributes the speed of his progress to the astute tutelage of Glenn Roeder, who watches the youngsters at all levels as much as time permits.

"Last year he coached me a couple of times and I was thinking to myself 'no wonder he has been in the England set-up' because he is coaching so well," says Anton.

"I think Glenn Roeder had a hard time at the start, but he has come through with flying colours and handled the pressure very well because a lot of people wrote him off.

"As for me, I know I just have to work hard every day - and play to the best of my ability."

If Anton does break through into professional football at West Ham, he may not be the last Ferdinand to do so.

Younger brother Jeremaiah is also showing signs of promise, though he may have to wait a while for that first team debut yet.

Ferdinand the youngest is only four!