Cohen's Cup Agony

YOUTH team captain Chris Cohen couldn't hide his disappointment, as the Hammers went out of the FA Youth Cup, losing 4-1 to Southampton at Upton Park.

The Quarter-Final defeat was especially painful for 17-year-old Chris, who will be too old to be involved in the competition next season.

"It was a massive disappointment," confessed Chris after the game, "and we're all absolutely devastated by the result.

"It is especially hard for those boys, like myself, that won't be involved in the FA Youth Cup again, because we really did want to go all the way this year. Being captain I wanted to do extra well for the team, but it just wasn't to be.

"Not just for ourselves, but mainly for the coaches and staff, who have put so much effort in to help us and other young players over the years.

"People like Tony Carr, Kevin Keen, Paul Heffer, Colin Reed and Jimmy Frith. It would have been great if we could have won it for them because they have literally brought us up.

"Unfortunately, we came up against a really quality team in Southampton, and just like last season, we've gone out in the Quarter-Finals."

Reflecting on the game, Chris admitted that the Saints - regarded as one of the best Youth outfits in the country - were just too strong on the night.

"They played well and we were beaten by a very good team," he admitted. "They played on percentages and were very good when they had to be.

"We battled back really well after half-time and got a great equaliser through Ollie Allen. We would have liked to push on better from that first goal, but being honest, they were stronger than us and it showed.

"Mark Noble was a massive loss and I'm sure he would have made a difference and Ishmael Welsh could have given us an extra dimension, but you can't take anything away from the players because they put in a massive effort.

"Southampton just came on really strong after they scored their second, and we weren't as good as we should have been in the last 20 minutes.

"Even so, I don't think it was a game that should have ended 4-1. That scoreline didn't do us justice, it was closer than that, but their strength really told towards the end of the game as we pushed to try and get back in it we got exposed.

"I feel especially for Tony Carr because he's been brilliant in getting us this far for the last few years, but we just haven't had enough for that final push."

But for Chris and some of his team-mates there was good news after the disappointment, as it was confirmed that six Hammers had been called up for England youth duty, the others being Mark Noble (England Under-19s), Moses Ashikodi and Kyel Reid (England Under-18s), Hogan Ephraim (England Under-17s) and James Tomkins (England Under-16s).

"Obviously it's great for the Club that six of us are involved," said Chris, "and encouraging for all those players. We have to keep working at it now and get on with things, and hope that next season the younger lads will be able to have another crack at it.

"Of course, the main thing for the Youth Academy is to see boys progressing through to the first-team and now hopefully as many of the lads as possible can push through and make the step up."