Age Concern

West Ham's Academy youngsters will be able to play four 'over age' players this season with the rules having changed from last year's system of having teams for the under 19s and under 17s.

This year, Tony will be looking after the under 18s while Kevin Keen takes the under 16s, but, to allow for this change, up to four older boys can play in the 'senior' side.

"Some boys are already in a scholarship system so the rule was brought in until boys are 'flushed out' of the system, as it were," explains Tony.

Indeed, there are four players to whom the rule applies: Sam Wright, Danny Bunce, Darren Blewitt, and Tommy Laws.

"I think I will occasionally use it; I hope they will get lots of reserve games but if for any reason there is a period that they are not getting reserve games, there is the fall-back that they will play for me if needed," says Tony.

"I will work with Alan on that one on a day-to-day basis."

Tony watched his side beat Osaka 5-0 on Monday in a friendly game that was played in three 30-minute segments.

"It was an excellent work-out," says Tony.

"We started very brightly, scoring four of the goals in the first 30 minutes, but then the game tapered off a little bit and we got a bit sloppy and loose - which is something we obviously have to sharpen up on before the season begins."

The goals came from Tony Stokes [2], Ollie Allen [2], and Sos Yao.

Tony's team took on Derby at the weekend in a 2-2 draw, about which Tony says:

"It was a good standard of match and that was a very pleasing game against good opposition."

Sos Yao scored both the goals in that game.

Tony is likely to be without the services of Chris Cohen and Mark Noble after their step up to working with the first team, but Tony has no complaints.

"That is what it is all about, the progression of young players and it is great to see Chris have an impact at first team level so young," he says.

"And Chris will learn from Rufus."

Mark Noble is currently on the injured list with a knee injury but starts light training this week.

It was a knee injury, too, that ruled out Don Hutchison from the first team squad that faced Peterborough on Saturday.

* Former keeper David Forde, who was released in the summer, is having a trial at Oldham.