Marek Stech turns 18 today and there is every sign that the promising West Ham United shot-stopper is coming of age.
The goalkeeper has won many admirers at the club already - not only for his imposing physique and obvious talent, but also for his work ethic and modest nature off the pitch. As with all of Tony Carr's young talents within the Academy, Stech is getting the best possible guidance about how to conduct himself both on and off the pitch - especially with compatriot Ludek Miklosko around as goalkeeping coach.
Of the Prague-born teenager, who joined West Ham United in July 2005, Carr said: "We haven't produced a goalkeeper through the youth academy for a very long time. Hopefully he is the one that can fill in that missing link. He is a real prospect and we have got high hopes. He has got a lovely size about him and a great attitude."
The Czech Republic youth international, who starred in the 2006 European Under-17 Championship final, has stepped up to reserve-team level this campaign, not least last Wednesday when he more than played his part in the 1-0 victory away to Portsmouth. Although the focus was rightly on the returning Craig Bellamy and Danny Gabbidon, Stech produced some tremendous saves to keep out a lively Pompey attack.
Since then, Stech has been forced on to the sidelines to rest an ankle ligament injury suffered in training but Carr said the problem would not deter his young charge for too long, citing his continual commitment to honing his skills. "He always wants to train and come in on his day off - he always wants to do that bit extra. There is no ego with him and he is definitely one for the future."