Granty's In Tune With Young Stars

HAMMERS first-team coach Peter Grant is hoping Tony Carr's Under-18s can go all the way in the FA Youth Cup this season, but knows that the real victory at youth-team level is seeing the boys come through West Ham United's famous Academy into the first-team.

The latest crop of emerging youngsters take on Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup Fourth Round at Upton Park this evening, kick-off 7.00pm, and Peter knows it will be a tough test.

"The FA Youth Cup is a massive competition," admitted Granty, "but the biggest thing for myself and Alan Pardew is seeing the boys progress into the first-team.

"It's great to see the young players winning trophies, but what I like to see is boys like Mark Noble coming through the youth-team into the senior squad.

"It will be a tough game against Manchester City. They have a strong youth side and a good set-up. They have done very well in producing young players over the last few years.

"Obviously we would love the boys to win this evening, because that winning habit is something fantastic to get into. But the success of our youth-team will be judged on how many players progress through to the Reserves and then the first-team.

"We keep mentioning Mark Noble, but if some of the current players can follow his example and push through to the first-team we would be delighted."

Peter and the senior coaching staff are advocates of including the younger players in the first-team squad, and explained:

"We think that it is important for the young players to train with the first-team players as much as possible.

"If the younger players are doing well for Tony then we bring them over to Chadwell Heath to train with the seniors.

"Some of the boys start to do well and when they do they might start to find it too easy when they go back.

"So, the logical step is for them to start training with the Reserves. When they reach that stage and start doing well for Kevin Keen we have a decision to make - do we keep them there or start to push them through to the first-team."

Some of the current youth-team have already travelled with the first-team squad to away matches, and that has included them completing the obligatory ritual of singing in front of their peers.

"It all started as a bit of a laugh," explained Peter, "but making them sing on their first trip makes them feel more a part of the squad.

"It's something Alan has always tried to do. It helps them blend in with the older players, it's all in good fun and hopefully the tradition continues.

"When a youth team player goes away with the first-team there are no barriers. We like to see all of them mixing in together and both myself and Alan feel that when the team goes on an overnight stay everyone should mingle together.

"The singing isn't meant to embrrass them, it is just something that also builds a bit of character. The day may come when we ask them to play in front of 40,000 people, so if they cannot even stand up and sing in front of their future team-mates then there could be problems.

"We help them out as much as possible. The boys start it off, but once the chorus comes in everyone is joining in!"