'A debut to dream about'

Alan Curbishley was thrilled for Freddie Sears after the 18-year-old's day to remember with the winning goal against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

The youngster has been in prolific form with 25 goals in 24 games at youth and reserve-team level this season and made an instant impact upon stepping up to the first team. After arriving as a substitute in the 74th minute, he grabbed the winner just over five minutes later - following up with a neat header after Brad Friedel had saved his shot from Dean Ashton's assist. "I am delighted with young Freddie Sears," said the manager." He has got a debut to dream about."

While the rest of his team-mates were congratulating the 18-year-old and signing a shirt and a ball as a memento, Curbishley said smiling Sears was "walking around the dressing room just beaming", adding "he ain't said anything". He continued: "We are delighted. It gives everybody a lift. I think it gave the crowd a lift when they saw a homegrown player come on."

Curbishley has a talented crop of youngsters at his disposal, having already given opportunities to Kyel Reid and Jack Collison this season, while James Tomkins was also on the bench against Blackburn. The day was all about Sears, though. "He has been here for forever apparently," said Curbishley when asked about his young charge. "Obviously I have seen a bit of him last year. He has come on a bundle since the pre-season and has been training with the first team on a regular basis.

"About three weeks ago we did one on ones and two against twos [in training] and Matty Upson and people like that said he did ever so well. He tormented them a little bit. As I said in the last week, he has been around us for two months - the same as Tomkins, the same as Collison." The manager added that he was always determined to give youngsters a run, saying "everyone has to be given a chance and he has come in and done great".

With Bobby Zamora struggling before kick-off with blisters suffered in last week's game at Tottenham Hotspur, Curbishley revealed there was a chance Sears could have started. As it was Zamora, who had painkilling injections before the match and at half-time, came through to play after passing a test, while Carlton Cole failed one having picked up a dead leg in training. Ashton, Zamora and Sears were all on the pitch for the thrilling finale with the manager "wanting to shake it up a bit" but also keep Zamora on for his energy and height against such an imposing side.

Curbishley said there was little reaction when he told the talented but modest teenager that he was on the bench. "I pulled him in and said to him you are going to be sub. I didn't get much of a response! I said who have you got here? He said his mum and dad. I said 'they will probably be singing for you after five minutes if it ain't going great!' The boys have just signed a shirt for him and a ball for him and someone said the drinks are on him but we are not too sure if he can get in a pub yet!"

Regarding the winner that threatened to raise the roof off the Boleyn Ground when it went into the net, the manager added: "What pleased me about the goal was that he has been played in and the keeper saved it and he didn't stop. He carried on for that split-second. If you stop, then it is lost. But he has hit the shot and Brad Friedel has saved it but he has popped up and carried on ... I was always thinking about getting him on. I wanted to get something a little bit different."

The manager was also asked about his own experience of scoring for the first time as a young West Ham United player. His tongue in cheek answer reflected the high spirits of all, after a day that could be the first of many good days for Sears. "I was 17, it was my second game and it was great. I just remember that day vividly because John Lyall asked Frank Lampard to take me home because he didn't want me going back on the bus. That's how I got here. It has all changed now. Freddie will probably jump in a Hummer or something ...."