Left-back Joe Widdowson made a real step forward during summer 2008 when he found himself part of Alan Curbishley's plans for the pre-season tour of the United States and Canada.
Born on 29 March 1989, the Forest Gate-based youngster found himself filling in admirably for the injured George McCartney and Jonathan Spector. He first played in the 3-1 win at Columbus Crew before the "unbelievable" experience of marking David Beckham in the MLS All-Star Game in Toronto. Although West Ham United lost 3-2, Widdowson was not overawed - at least not until he was handed Beckham's shirt by the famous No23.
He had previously been making steady progress at the Boleyn Ground. In February 2008, he went on a one-month loan at League Two side Rotherham United - making his Millers debut in a 3-0 reserve-team defeat by Leeds United. Widdowson had been signed by Rotherham as cover for their injured defender Stephen Brogan.
Born in March 1989, Widdowson had previously spent a week with Carlisle United before Christmas 2007 and returned to the Boleyn Ground to join up again with the Under-18s. He notably played a part in a 2-0 victory against Arsenal just before leaving for Rotherham having also earned praise from Kevin Keen for a strong display at reserve-team level in the 0-0 reserve-team draw against Chelsea in January.