Following a successful season for his young West Ham
United charges, Youth Academy Director Tony Carr reflects on a
positive campaign and looks ahead to a bright future.
"I think the youth team have done ever so well this year," said Tony. "Our final position as runners-up behind Arsenal and ahead of Chelsea in the league is very good. To be sandwiched between those two massive Clubs is a real achievement for the young lads.
"I sincerely believe that if it hadn't been for the tough schedule of the reserves, which meant they were playing two games a week, I think we might even have won it. That aside, I think they can all look back and feel they have achieved a very high standard this year and be proud of their performances."
Although playing in the reserves may have made for a tougher fixture schedule, Tony admits the young lads have benefited from a wealth of first team experience.
"I think sometimes the reserve team can be difficult because, with respect, sometimes the young players go in there to fill up spaces," he said. "What you want is some senior players playing in the reserves mixed with some up-and-coming young players that have been outstanding for the youth team.
"It's hard for the boys because they're playing against men. It pushes them all the way and physically it can be very demanding. Consequently we then get the hangover on the Saturday and results do tend to suffer. But the bottom line with it all is the development of the young player.
"Our young players this year have performed very well, learnt a lot and it's culminated in all the second year boys being given professional contracts for another year. That's a first for a long time and it mirrors the fact that they've performed very well.
"Where these boys end up and what standard they play at is up to them now. The next step is always the toughest one, the step from young youth and reserve player into more seasoned professional is tough. But they've worked hard this year and deserved their success and we'll see what the future brings for them."
It is, according to Tony, a future full of promise for West Ham United's home-grown talent.
"It shows that there's some young talent in the Academy. Over the years there'll be more to come. We've got some very good young players in the Academy and the next three or four years hopefully they'll start to come through.
"It's still as rewarding as it's always been, but it has its frustrations. You still get a kick when you see young Mark Noble establishing himself in the first team this year and put in some real heroic performances in the Premiership in some trying circumstances. That gives us a huge lift in the Academy department.
"It's also great to see the young players getting their
pro contracts and the 13-14 year olds performing every weekend in
the Academy leagues on a Sunday. I still get immense pleasure from
it, that's for sure."