First-team future for Academy aces

Teenage trio James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Freddie Sears have all made the first-team breakthrough for West Ham United this season - much to the delight of Alan Curbishley.

The manager reflected on the impact of all three after the 1-1 draw at Everton as they follow in the footsteps of established homegrown stars Anton Ferdinand and Mark Noble. "They're very, very level-headed," Curbishley said. "I came down to breakfast this morning and the three of them were sitting round the table and then Noble came down who was like the shop steward because he's a year older them. He sat with them and I thought he was taking their subs.


"There is a nice spirit when you've got the young boys with you. Everything is a bonus to them at the moment and long may it continue. I don't know how it's going to shape up in the run-in but if I can put one or two of them in, I will." Curbishley acknowledged that the introduction of the three players this season, along with a couple of run-outs for 20-year-old winger Kyel Reid who has of late been "itching to get a chance", has been "a tremendous lift for the fans".

That said, the manager was well aware there was still every chance of the club finishing just outside the top five or six this campaign and that securing results was still the primary focus. "I've got to have one hat on considering trying to win Premier League matches and points and another one where I'm looking at the future of the club," he explained. It is clear more opportunities will come their way though, with striker Sears for example seen as not just an impact player off the bench.

The manager said: "I'm going to start him in one of the games, I've just got to pick it. [Everton] is a tough place to come to. I didn't think giving two 18-year-olds their debut at Goodison, at the same time, was advisable. But we'll see what we've got in the remainder of the games because certainly we want to see him start a game and see what he's got." The same goes for defensive debutant Tomkins with Curbishley claiming "we had no doubts about the two of them".

The likes of Academy director Tony Carr and reserve-team manager Kevin Keen have more than played their part in bringing the youngsters through this season and Curbishley has no worries about keeping them grounded despite the increased attention. "It's difficult in the Premier League because everything is so hyped up. You play and it doesn't die down until about Wednesday and then you've got to get on with the next one. The people who are around them - we know they are level headed and I think it's just all a big bonus for them at the moment."