Tony Carr Scoops Premiership Award

Premiership sponsor Barclaycard has awarded the Director of West Ham United's Youth Academy, Tony Carr, the unique Barclaycard Free Kicks Champion Award and a £1,000 cheque for the institution in celebrating 30 years of his work at one of football's most renowned youth academies.

Joe Cole officially presented the award to Tony on Thursday at the club's training ground.

In his 30 years of coaching at the club, Tony's name has been synonymous with the creation of a successful youth policy which, over the years, has produced players like Steve Potts, Paul Ince, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe and more recently, Glen Johnson - to name a few.

He says: "It is certainly a long time, 30 years anywhere, let alone in professional football.

"Chadwell Heath has been painted a couple of times since then and I have helped paint it - don't worry!"

Tony himself began as a promising striker with the Hammers during the early 1960s, spending five seasons at the club before moving to Barnet.

A serious broken leg prematurely ended his playing career, before John Lyall offered him a part-time coaching role with the West Ham youth squad.

Under his watchful eye, the Hammers youth team won their first ever South East Counties League title in 1985 - a feat he would go onto repeat as manager in 1995-96 and 1997-98.

His team also reached the FA Youth Cup Final in 1981, 1996 and 1999, before taking up the role of Academy Director.

In that role, Tony looks after 120 children aged between 8 and 18 from the local area, before nurturing them into professional football.

"When a kid joins West Ham, the emphasis is firmly placed upon fun, allowing kids to feel comfortable with the ball at their feet, before developing a tactical understanding of the game and then, after a couple of years, nurture a mental toughness and winning mentality," explains Tony.

"As a club we not only develop the kids on the pitch, but as much effort is put into maturing them off the field too.

"We work very closely with schools, welfare officers and local groups to ensure they are given the best opportunities possible.

"It is our aim that, even if kid does quite make the grade, we will have produced a well rounded human being; we take them from a boy to a man and being in professional football does open doors for them.

"Even if they don't go all the way I think they never regret the experience."

Competition for young talent is even tougher now, and Tony adds:

"We have to convince the player and his parents that this club is the right one for them, and I think the whole atmosphere of the place is good, plus the good record of giving young boys an opportunity.

"We have that tradition and it is continuing under the current management and it is a place where a boy can learn in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

"I think in any professional sport the fallout is a great percentage compared to the ones who go through but I think they all come out of the system with something."

The Barclaycard Free Kicks Champion Award is a unique award to celebrate football's genuine heroes.

Barclaycard invites fans to nominate someone - in the community or a worthy player - who deserves recognition for their outstanding contribution.

The winner is presented with the award and a cheque for £1,000 going to their organisation.

The award forms part Barclaycard Free Kicks, a three-year programme to inject £4 million into grassroots football across the UK.

Sponsorship Director Nic Gault says:

"As a football fan, there is no greater sense of thrill to see a local, home grown talent break into the first team and then to make the grade at international level.

However, players like Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick don't just happen over night, and we are delighted to recognise Tony's - and his team's - vast amount of time and support given to the next generation of players coming through the ranks."