Tony's Half-time Inspiration

AN inspired second-half performance from Tony Carr's young Hammers saw them knock FA Youth Cup favourites Blackburn Rovers out of the competition in a gripping Fourth Round tie at Upton Park.

But they did it the hard way, coming back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to sweep Blackburn aside 4-1. The Academy Director revealed after the game what he had said during the half-time interval to inspire his young team.

"The repeatable version was, if you are going to go out of the competition lets go out fighting," explained Tony. "I didn't want them losing a game when they hadn't had a go.

"I also told them to believe in their own ability. Despite trailing at half-time I felt we had played better than them. Yet we still had a mountain to climb at 1-0 down and the boys did fantastically well after the break.

"They came out, got right in Blackburn's face, didn't let them settle and really upset their rhythm. Blackburn's frustration boiled over when their player was sent-off for lashing out at Jemel Henry, but that was all down to the immense pressure we put them under.

"We also scored some very good goals. Moses was a handful all night and he scored the first and with his tenacity made the third for Hogan Ephraim to score with a fantastic finish.

"In between Tony Stokes struck a very good finish and Mark Noble's free-kick was excellent. It was a great team performance and everbody is delighted."

For players such as Mark Noble and Chris Cohen, it will be a return to duty with the first-team at the weekend, while their Academy peers push hard to follow in their footsteps. It is this fracturing of his Under-18 team that makes it hard for Tony Carr to maintain a level of consistency, but he points out that his main goal is to groom players for senior success.

"If we could put near enough the team that beat Blackburn out every week then I think our League position would be a lot different," he said. "But, as I've explained before, the job of the Academy is to prepare players and then push them on into the senior set-up.

"The Saturday League acts more as a development division for young players. Once they progress then they move out of that League and start playing at reserve and hopefully first-team level.

"It's the FA Youth Cup that's the serious stuff for us, and we're just delighted to have progressed against a very strong Blackburn team."

Tony's team have been drawn to face local rivals Leyton Orient at Upton Park in the Fifth Round, and he warns the tie is nowhere near as straight forward as it might sound.

"We will go into the game as favourites," he conceded, "but in cup football, where the boys are all similar ages, that will mean very little.

"Orient will go into the tie believing they can do to us what we have just done to Blackburn, which is cause a big upset.

"I've seen Orient play and they've got two front players who would give any defence problems. If we take them likely it could end up being Orient singing in the dressing-room and not West Ham United. We'll have to be on our guard."