U18s in Dutch test

Tony Carr will lead his West Ham United youngsters into a prestigious pre-season tournament in the Netherlands on Friday.

The Academy Director will take an Under-18 and U17 team to Doetinchem to take part in a tournament with seven other teams from around the globe.

"It's a final preparation for pre-season training," Carr said. We always like to take in a pre-season tournament now. It is a good bonding session for the squad to go away together even though it is only for three days.

"We then come back on the Monday, start training on the Tuesday for the first league game against Everton the following Saturday. Hopefully we'll come through it unscathed and we start preparing for the league programme that starts on the 22 August."

With strong representation from the host country, there will also be plenty of interest in countries as far away as Brazil. "It's mostly Dutch teams but the full lineup with us is Botafogo from Brazil, AK Alkmaar from Austria, Salzburg from Germany, Graafschap from Holland, Vitesse Arnhem, Kopenhagen from Denmark and Doetinchem, the local team from Holland."

With their flight leaving London on Friday morning and the first match later that day, Carr's squad will quickly need to adapt to their new surroundings.

"We should have four games over a three-day period. The only downside for us is that we travel very early on a Friday morning and play Friday evening the same day so it is going to be a long tough day for us. We fly to Dusseldorf in Germany and the tournament is just over the border in Holland."

The tournament takes on an eleven-a-side format with matches 30 minutes each way. The eight teams will form two groups of four with the winners and runners-up of each section facing each other in the semi-finals. The third and fourth place from each group will also compete for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place in the tournament through a play-off.

Carr could be without a couple of familiar faces through injury. But, ever the optimist, he simply sees it as an opportunity for another player to stake a claim.

"We've got a couple of injuries. Callum McNaughton, who performed very well for us at centre back last year, has turned his ankle over so we don't want to risk him as we need him for the Everton game. Filip Modelski is still a long-term injury so he won't go.

"But there are a lot of new young lads going so it's an opportunity for them to step into the gaps and hopefully great experience. Even recent signings - Frank Nouble, Darprela are eligible to play in the youth team. We are probably not going to use them, but it shows the strength we have."

After spending the whole of pre-season on home soil, Carr is looking forward to the different kind of challenges his youngsters will face playing foreign opposition in unfamiliar territory.

"When you're playing a tournament you play to win so there's more of an edge to the game and everybody is trying to win as it's a tournament format. It gives you that little edge that you need in the league before the league begins.

"You're playing foreign opposition, different refereeing with different interpretations and certainly you've got to keep your cool as some of these decisions in these tournaments and the play acting is something that frustrates the British mentality. They are all things you learn over the years but I am looking forward to it. It should be a good three days."

Although keen to progress as far as possible in the tournament, Carr is already content with how his side are shaping up for the new season.

"In terms of preparation and fitness I'm very pleased. There are just one or two little tactical issues I'm not too sure about - who's going to play where and exactly my best starting XI at this point, but that is to be expected. But it does show the strength of the squad which is great."

Return to whufc.com to follow how Carr's side progress in the tournament.