Giving youth a chance

"We are actively looking for the eight or nine year old who is going to be the next Freddie Sears or the next star for the football club."

Tony Carr has been helping West Ham United produce young players for 35 years and the enthusiasm is as strong as ever. Although still buoyed by the achievements of Sears alongside James Tomkins and Jack Collison last season, Carr has already turned his attention to the future. "I have said many times before it is like a conveyor belt," he said. "The players come on and then hopefully come off at the other end as first-team players. It never stops and runs all the way through the age groups. It is the ones that can stay on there the longest that are successful."

The Academy set-up last season and the ability of youngsters to make it into the reserves and first team is something that Carr believes is a credit to West Ham United. "At youth level, we achieved a good balance there of playing and resting players. No one has been overplayed and for the youth team to finish runners-up to Arsenal for the second year running and the reserves going into their last game with a slim chance of winning the league says a lot of good things about how the young players have performed in both teams. I am pleased that they have achieved those levels.

"The ultimate success of our academy last year is we have had three former academy players make debuts in the Premier League. Not many can say that and it is something we are really proud about. It is not only now that we can point to that but over many seasons as well. For a young promising player, West Ham is the place to be beacuse you get good coaching, a good environment and a club that believes in youth and will give it a chance. We don't just promise it, we deliver it and I think that's the key."

Sears, Tomkins and Collison are proof of that approach and Carr predicts a big season ahead for the trio to build on their achievements. He said: "All those three boys have had a taste and it is up to them to work that bit harder and use the experience again to want a little bit more of it."

Carr on Sears
He is a true product of the Academy system. Freddie has been here since he was eight or nine years old. He is a local lad who lives in Essex and is a West Ham fan from a West Ham family. He got himself a place on the bench through his efforts in training and all the goals he had scored with the youth team. There is no better way to announce your arrival in the Premier League than to score the winning goal at Upton Park. It was fantastic. It was shades of Tony Cottee's debut ... he has got a lot to live up to but he has had a great start.

Carr on Tomkins
James again has been here since he was eight or nine. Again he is an Essex lad and has always been West Ham. He may have come to the fore a year before but unfortunately he broke his collarbone and had some complications. He has had to be patient with almost having a season out injured. For him now to be part of the first team and holding his own, doing well and getting great experience makes us all very proud.

Carr on Collison
Jack came from Cambridge United. We had a look at two or three of their players that were looking for clubs. We had a trial game and saw Jack play. We liked what we saw and signed him. We thought he had great potential. We have worked with him now for three years and he has become a much better player and has really pushed himself to the fore. He leads by example and is full of running and endeavour. Every game is 110 per cent effort from him. He is an infectious character. He has done very well.

Who's next?
Marek Stech has had an excellent couple of seasons. He is a promising young goalkeeper and I am sure he has got a great future. Junior Stanislas and Jordan Spence have been regulars for the youth team and the reserves. Both had very good seasons. Junior has been called into the England U19 squad on occasion and Jordan is captain of England U17 and on the fringes of the U19s as well. They are promising players that we should all keep an eye on. That is what we are talking about, the conveyor belt. We are looking for the next in line and we are hoping the conveyor belt continues.