Youths slip to defeat but finish proudly

The season may have ended in a defeat for West Ham United's Under-18s on Saturday, but their final league placing tells the real story of what has been a fantastic campaign for the Club's youngsters.

Hammers went down 3-1 at home to Reading but, for Academy Director Tony Carr, the overall consistent performances of his young players throughout the campaign was the reason for them finishing in second place behind Arsenal and in front of third-placed Chelsea in the Group B table.

"It has been a tremendous season and I am very proud of all the boys," says Tony. "I think, apart from maybe the last few weeks, our performances and results have been consistent and to finish where we are in the league was great and testament to that.

"I just feel the extra amount of football played by some of the boys for the reserves just took their toll a bit and perhaps prevented us from getting that final flourish, but I felt we played some excellent football this year and we've done tremendously well."

West Ham found themselves 2-0 down in the first-half against Reading, but managed to pull a goal back just before half-time. With two minutes to go to the break, Jack Collison got on the end of the corner kick to control the ball and send a low-drive into the back of the net.

In the second half, Hammers penned the visitors back for the first half-hour, putting pressure on but were not able to convert the opportunities into goals. Freddie Sears and Junior Stanislas had the best of the chances, but it was Reading who scored again, netting a third to wrap up the game.

Tony said: "Reading are a very good team and were simply just a bit better than us on the day. It was important for us to get the goal before half-time and we went at them in the second half, but unfortunately couldn't claw it back and they killed us off with the third goal.

"It was shame that we couldn't finish with a win, but it doesn't take away what the team has achieved this season. If you had said we would be runners-up to Arsenal and would finish above Chelsea, I would have probably taken that."

The boys will now continue to train and be involved in reserve team action until the end of the season, as Tony and his staff will assess the campaign and look ahead to next year.

And for West Ham United, the signs are that there is a whole lot of talent in the youth ranks, which can only be a good vision for the future.

"One of the things that has impressed me the most, apart from some very good performances on a regular basis, was the togetherness of the boys, not just going into each match but on the training pitch as well. There has been a tremendous spirit and that has been taken into every game.

"If you look back at all the games we have played, there hasn't been many where we have conceded a lot and the attitude was always that we went into every game believing we could win and mostly carrying that out.

"I always felt we could score in matches and I am delighted at the season overall, how everyone has applied themselves for West Ham United. The boys will see the season out and we will then focus on the targets for next year."

Hammers: Blackmore, Payne (Miller), Widdowson, Spence, N'Gala, Hales, Stanislas, Collison, Jeffery, Sears, Hines (Hunt). Subs Unused: Loveday, Harvey