Hilts delighted to be back at Upton Park

Former Hammers defender Paul Hilton is settling back in at Upton Park after re-joining the Club as Assistant Youth Academy Manager recently.

Paul is already enjoying working with West Ham United's young players and is looking forward to the next few months, which will see a re-structured youth and schoolboy policy installed.

"It's been a couple of weeks since I arrived and it's been great," says Paul. "The offer came out of the blue. I got a call from Tony (Carr) and he explained about how the Club was looking to go forward with the Academy system here and asked if I would like to apply for the position.

"Of course, it was something that I was not going to turn down and I was delighted to come back to a place where I have some brilliant memories from my playing days, and also as a coach. I was a youth team coach when Billy Bonds was a manager. All in all, I was here 11 years as a player and coach and it's great to be back."

Paul's role within the Academy will focus mainly on the development of our under-16 players and helping to implement a closer connection between the full-time Youth Academy scholars and players at schoolboy level.

"The Club already has a great reputation in producing some of the best young players," he says. "What we are trying to do with the new structure is make sure there is more of a link between the schoolboy and the youth set-up. I will be focusing on the under-16s, but also working alongside our staff for the younger boys as well as assisting Tony with the youth side.

"I deal more with the technical and tactical side, but we will all be making sure that young players for the next generation are well equipped to deal with all that comes with being a senior professional if they make it through. It is a big leap from schoolboy level to the youth team and it's a case of helping the young boys in doing this while they develop their game at the same time.

"It also includes them learning about lifestyle, educating them about nutrition, all the things that youngsters need to know that comes with being a professional footballer. It's something that is needed now with the pressures that the game brings. Players not only need to know about how they should be conducting themselves on the pitch and in training, but off it as well."

Asked if he remembers his time as an up and coming footballer, Paul laughs and says: "Well, we perhaps didn't have as much on the nutrition and all of that, and the facilities were not as good, but that's how it was then and I can't complain!

"But while you don't perhaps realise it at the time, it is an important part of your career, the early days. You are still growing and developing but just want to make it as a footballer. It's all about making sure you are preparing yourself in the right way and if you are lucky enough to make it and work hard enough, it will pay off for you in later years."

Prior to his return to Upton Park, Paul had spent seven months coaching the youth team players at Gillingham, while before that, he coached at Ipswich Town on a part-time basis for six years.

On coming back, Paul was delighted to see some familiar faces from his time here before. He said: "Of course Tony was here before when I was both a player and a coach, Stan Burke on the academy staff, the kit-men Eddie (Gillam) and Pete (Williams), Shirley the cook and Ludo. The training ground is great, the facilities here now are tremendous."

Paul adds: "It's great to be back. Being a former player myself, yes, I feel I can pass on the experiences I had and I was also lucky to have played alongside some great players here at West Ham. Alvin Martin, Phil Parkes, Tony Gale, Billy Bonds, the list goes on.

"It's a fantastic set-up here and what we hope to do is continue with the good work that has already been done and go on to provide players for West Ham United for years to come. I am really excited about being a part of that."

By Laura Burkin