Carr's kids on biggest stage

"They are our boys who have made it all the way to the top and West Ham United fans should be proud of that. We will have two as winners and two as runners-up, which isn't a bad record."

So says academy director Tony Carr about Wednesday night's Champions League final in Moscow which will pit Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick up against Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Joe Cole. The foursome all learned their trade under Carr's tutelage at Chadwell Heath and the man who has just finished his 35th year of service said their high-profile achievements are helping the club to attract new talent and earn recognition around the world.

"It is a great testament to us and you often hear us mentioned when people are talking about these players, the fact that they have come through the ranks here," Carr told the club programme. "For me it gives me goose pimples on the back of my neck when I see the likes of Rio and Joe playing in the Champions League which is the very top of this profession. We can even make a claim on John Terry, because he spent five years here between the ages of nine and 14."

These days the club is firmly committed to fostering more young talent and keeping them within the ranks. After a season that saw James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Freddie Sears make it six homegrown players in the current first-team picture, Carr is positive for the future. "Each year I have a new team of players to work with and it's still exciting to see where the next generation is coming from. The first team is about tomorrow and the next result but youth football is all about next year and beyond that. For me, it is a challenge I am still enjoying being part of."