Carr still driving the stars of the future

Tony Carr has reflected on yet another successful and productive campaign for the Youth Academy at West Ham United.

Our highly-respected Academy Director has once again overseen a fruitful season, in which no fewer than three youngsters have progressed to make first team debuts for the Club, and he admits that is the criteria upon which his department will be judged.

"I think we can safely say that is has been another successful season for the Academy," says Tony. "As supporters know, our success isn't about winning leagues or cups, it's about the production of young players and their path to first team football.

"The highlight for the Academy this season was Kyel Reid making his Premiership debut for the Club at West Brom recently, but we have also seen Tony Stokes and Hogan Ephraim make first team debuts in the Carling Cup, while the likes of Tony and Chris Cohen have impressed out on loan.

"One or two others have been pressing the manager, and we've also had many of the under-18s and even schoolboys playing reserve team football in the second half of the campaign.

"It's not ideal to have schoolboys playing reserve team football - you certainly can't do it on a regular basis - but, in the long run, the experience will stand them in good stead. We try to dip them in and out, and at times they have struggled, but it's all part of the learning curve and will hopefully make them stronger, both as a player and a person.

"It's just a case of keeping the production line rolling on and, with the intake of boys who will be joining the Club full-time this summer, we are very confident that some more will make that step up to the top level in the future."

Reflecting on the actual footballing achievements of his young charges last season, Tony admits that results were mixed but, having finished in third place behind Southampton and Chelsea in their regional group - above the likes of Arsenal and Charlton Athletic - there is still much to be satisfied about.

"I've been quite pleased with results and performances," he says. "We've beaten Arsenal home and away, were the first team to beat Southampton away, we beat Chelsea at home

"The disappointments were the FA Youth Cup defeat against Manchester City, but then they were a very strong side who went on to reach the final, and we fell away a bit for the last half a dozen league games, when a lot of the boys were playing for the reserves every week and finding it difficult.

"So overall, we're very pleased with the way things have gone and look upon it as a successful season, culminating of course with the first team's terrific finish. We sit here today feeling very proud of the accomplishments at all levels of the Club."

With the season now out of the way, the focus turns to personnel, as Tony and his staff decide which youngsters have reached the end of the road in their bid to make the grade, and which schoolboy hopefuls are deserving of the full-time contracts they all crave - a process that brings mixed emotions.

"The horrible part of the job, in terms of letting players go and telling them they don't have a future here has already been done," he says. "We make those decisions a couple of months from the end of the season, in order to give the boys a better chance of getting fixed up elsewhere.

"We do all we can to help them find clubs, be it in the lower leagues or even at a semi-professional level if they are still progressing with their education and looking at a possible career outside of football.

"On the other side of the coin, there is the positive factor of the new young lads who will be joining us full-time in July. We've got two or three schoolboy internationals coming in, and there is also a possibility we may be bringing in a young foreign international before the new season starts.

"So it's exciting times in that sense, and we look forward to the process beginning all over again next season. There are one or two who, if they continue to progress, have a chance of making an impact at first-team level and, from my point of view, that's where the motivation comes from - to ensure the production line keeps rolling on."