Tony's Taking Nothing For Granted

ACADEMY Director Tony Carr was quick to stress that his Hammers side will be taking nothing for granted as they face a tough test in the FA Youth Cup Fifth Round against Leyton Orient at Upton Park this evening.

Having emerged as victorious underdogs from their clash with favourites Blackburn Rovers in the last round, Tony's team will face the different prospect of entering tonight's game as the favourites.

But that is certainly not affecting the focus of the young Hammers as they look forward to what should be an excellent Cup-tie.

"We're not taking anything for granted," insisted Tony, "and I don't expect anything less than a very tough examination of that we're about this evening.

"Leyton Orient certainly haven't reached the Fifth Round of the FA Youth Cup by accident. They're here entirely on merit and have won some very good matches to get to this stage of the competition.

"We're going to give them the respect they deserve, and on the night they're just as capable of winning the tie as we are. The result is far from a fore gone conclusion and we're preparing for a really closely fought game."

As is often the case with clubs in the lower echelons of League football, youngsters gain senior experience a lot earlier than those from teams with a large pool of first-team players. And Tony certainly expects to see some first-team experience within the Orient ranks.

"It's highly likely that they'll have some boys with first-team experience," he admitted, "but of course we've also got a couple of players that have played and been involved with the senior side.

"The key to their success this year has been their front-two, who could cause any team problems. We'll certainly have to be on our guard at the back because they could hurt us with their pace.

"Whichever team comes out on top, it's going to be a game where we'll have to work for the full 90 minutes, and maybe even beyond. I think it'll be similar to the Gillingham game in that it'll be a physical contest, and one that we'll have to work extremely hard to win."

Preparation at Little Heath over the past couple of weeks has gone well, with Tony and his team paying particular attention to the avoidance of cramp, which afflicted a number of players during the game against Blackburn.

"We didn't want the cramp problem to reoccur and so after we played Arsenal in the League we put a ten day fitness programme into action," he explained.

"Win or lose tonight it certainly won't be for a lack of preparation. All the boys are looking forward to it and hopefully they'll be a good crowd at Upton Park to cheer them on.

"It's a really big night for them and the support of the fans means a lot to the players. Hopefully, they'll give a good account of themselves."

While the youngsters will be going all out for FA Youth Cup success this evening, Tony knows that the goal of the Academy is far more wide reaching than simply winning Cup-ties. It's with that in mind that he waits to see which players will be available to him, after Mark Noble and Chris Cohen were on first-team duty at the weekend.

"Academy boys making it through to the first-team is what our success is judged on," explained Tony, "which is why FA Youth Cup football takes a back seat when it comes to the first-team.

"It's not about how many Cup games you win, but how many boys go on to play for the first-team.

"On that basis, tonight's game will be an important step on the development of these young players. It's a massive night and they'll be going all out to try and make it through to the next round."

West Ham United v Leyton Orient at Upton Park, kick-off 7.00pm.