Tony: Long Road Ahead

Monday was the first day of a 'new term' for the new intake of starry-eyed recruits coming under the expert eye of Tony Carr - and once again the Academy director is looking to set them on the long journey towards 'making it' at West Ham.

It is the experience Tony himself went through in 1966, and, though the confirmed Hammers fan from Bow admits he didn't have what it took to be a West Ham player - he spent five years trying before his career was ended by a leg break while with Barnet - when John Lyall offered him some coaching work in 1973 he hasn't looked back.

The pupil-turned-teacher looked around his new proteges at Little Heath as he spoke to them, hoping that, yet again, he could help the club continue to defy the law of averages by picking from amongst them another couple of nuggets to polish into professionals.

"Inevitably, you can't keep plucking great players like apples off a tree - it is not that simple," he admits."Every boy comes in with high hopes and we want them to push on to greater things.

"It is not an exact science; human nature is a funny thing, as it can guide you in certain directions and lead you up false paths and alleys.

"But, invariably, our record is quite good in unearthing talent and hopefully we have got one or two that can push on and do well for us.

"You are going to have one or two barren years along the way but to be fair we are all doing our best to make sure that doesn't happen.

"I am confident there are some very good ones amongst the new intake and hopefully there are three or four that can take the opportunity - and exceed even our expectations."

It was a gentle start for the youngsters before the real grind begins, and Tony says of Day One of the road to stardom:

"We explain to them what is expected of them, what role they will play and what role we have got.

"We eased them in very slowly today in training and obviously each day it gets progressively a little bit harder."

Tony says that the club as a whole must put behind it the events of May and adds:

"It is not easy, as we all know; it was a massive disappointment at Cardiff but you have to be professional, and put it to one side into the back of your mind.

"There are fresh opportunities - and we have to take them."

As do the young hopefuls that arrived on their first day of training on Monday.

The first two games of the revamped league - the Youth Academy Under 18 League, which replaces last year's U19 and U17 structure - can be revealed as Manchester City at home on August 21st, and Manchester United away on August 28th.

Could there be another England player from the latest intake?

Since the World Cup winning year of 1966, 15 players who started their professional life at Upton Park have gone on to play for England, headed of course by the famous triumvirate of Bobby Moore [1958-73] with 108 caps, Geoff Hurst [1960-72] with 49 caps, and Martin Peters [1962-70] with 33 caps, plus 34 with Tottenham.

Sir Trevor Brooking [1965-84] with 47 is next, while other players to earn all their England caps at West Ham are Alan Devonshire [1976-90] with 8, Alvin Martin [1978-96] with 17, Frank Lampard Snr [1967-85] with 2 and Michael Carrick [1998-present] with 2.

Players to kick off their England career with West Ham are Tony Cottee [1983-88] with 3 caps [plus 4 with Everton], Rio Ferdinand [1995-2000] with 10 [plus 23 with Leeds and Manchester United], Frank Lampard Jnr [1995-2000] with 2 [plus 17 with Chelsea], and Joe Cole [1998-2003] with 10 [plus 7 with Chelsea].

Paul Ince [1986-89], Jermain Defoe [2000-2004], and Glen Johnson [2001-2003] complete the list, earning their England debuts after departing east London.

* Korean youngster San Lee, released in the summer, has joined Brentford.