Bonzo building for the future

Bondz 'Gala is learning fast at West Ham United and is looking to add his name to the list of talented Academy youngsters on the fringes of the first team.

The imposing centre-back is enjoying life at reserve-team level alongside England Under-19 defender James Tomkins. The pair first came together for Kevin Keen's side at home to Chelsea on 10 December with 'Gala turning in a man of the match display in the goalless draw. They then reunited last week for the visit of Birmingham City and again were imperious in a 4-1 success.

"My aim is to be a regular for the reserves now and try to push on from there," the 18-year-old, who is nicknamed Bonzo, told WHUTV. "The next step is to make my mark for the reserve team. Hopefully, the manager is watching and I will do all I can to impress." He could get another chance to do just that on Wednesday night when Fulham arrive at Bishop's Stortford looking to fare better than Birmingham.

"It was a very good win," 'Gala said of last week's success. "We worked hard at them and got the result in the end. We had a good team out so we believed in our ability and got back in the game, and in the end we got four." As well as Tomkins, the back line featured the highly rated Jordan Spence, who is still only 17, at right-back and Jonathan Spector, a veteran by comparison at 21, at left-back.

Having the chance to play alongside the likes of established US international Spector and returning hat-trick hero Bobby Zamora further forward is something that 'Gala is looking to use to his advantage. "I am always listening to what they have got to say and take it on. They have been there and are willing to help. It is good to see Bob back out there. Hopefully we will see him out there soon for the first team doing the same."

In between those Chelsea and Birmingham reserve fixtures, 'Gala went off to Weymouth on a work experience arrangement last month only to be recalled after a change of management at the Conference club. Despite that aborted spell he did get the chance to taste the top level of non-league football and found it as useful an experience as playing alongside Zamora and Co.

"It has helped me playing competitive football elsewhere," the homegrown talent from Forest Gate said. "I have grown up a bit more. I had to grow up quick in that league. It is a bit different to being here - they play the ball a bit long more, you have got to get used to it. There was more heading for me. It was good."

'Gala's first game upon his return to West Ham United was helping the Under-18s to a 2-0 win at Arsenal on 2 February and he was back in action again for Tony Carr's in-form Academy side at the weekend as they won 1-0 away to Southampton. "It is good to be back and to see the lads again. It is good to be playing in the West Ham shirt again as well."