Glenn: Follow The Seniors

Glenn Roeder hopes that the home grown players will continue to roll off the production line at Upton Park - and follow the example of the elder statesmen at the club in Les Ferdinand and Nigel Winterburn.

Whether both of those players are still at the club next season remains to be seen, but for now at least, Glenn's message to the youngsters is: Watch, listen, learn, and copy.

"Older players, like Les at 36, Nigel at 39, come from a very old fashioned school, a tough school of life and we want those lessons that they have learnt to rub off on our younger players," says Glenn.

"We preach it hard in our academy; we try to make our young players mentally tough as early as we can.

"It is not an easy ride coming up through the ranks and trying to be a professional footballer. There are a lot of barriers put in young players' way to try and block them becoming pros - and we want them to fight every block that is put in their way and overcome it."

But overcome those barriers they can, as others have shown.

"It was very gratifying to have four academy players starting on Saturday all 21 and under," says Glenn, who hints that there are still more to come around the corner.

"We know what Glen Johnson has done so far, and we know how he compares with two of our other young players in the reserves at the moment that are both a year younger than Glen," he enthuses.

"So we are very confident that in a year's time there will be another two pushing their way into first team football."

The icing on the cake for Glenn was having one of the home grown products wearing the captain's armband, and he adds: "Joe took over the captain's role on Saturday. He has captained the team quite a few times already and I know that he can perform, when asked to, the captain's role.

"Again, he typifies what we are trying to do, as he is an academy boy.

"I would like to think that over the next two or three years time, two thirds of the team will be made up of academy boys.

"That is the route forward, not just for West Ham, but for British football - to produce your own.

"There is no doubt about it, it is a great feeling for a manager to be able to blood a player that he might have known since he has been 12 or 13 years old.

"I think the fans appreciate it. They love Joe, Michael, and Jermain and I would think Glen Johnson is going to be a favourite of theirs very quickly."

The Hammers boss feels that Glen Johnson, who used to be a centre half, is just the right material for a full back, and he adds: "He has got the perfect physique for a full back in the modern game, six foot with broad shoulders, and he is quick, strong and technically sound on the ball.

"He is going to get better with games and I have to realise how well he has done, keep a lid on it, and keep making sure that he keeps his feet on the ground - which I am sure he will do without me saying anything because he is such a level-headed young man.

"It is great that Jermain, Joe, and Michael are in the team because he has grown up with those young players as well and all four get on so well around the ground."

Meanwhile, it seems certain that Paolo Di Canio's return to England from the rehabilitation centre where he is currently working will be too late for him to make the Everton game.