Fry signs up

West Ham United defender Matt Fry has given his father Ron the perfect birthday present by signing his first professional contract with the club.

Fry, who turns 19 in September, enjoyed a superb 2008/09 campaign, being named captain of Tony Carr's Under-18 side and progressing to become a regular in the reserve team, playing ten times for Alex Dyer's team.

A lifelong West Ham fan who has been at the club since the age of eleven, Fry has overcome a serious injury to become one of the club's most promising young players.

The versatile, committed teenager, who is equally comfortable at both centre-back and left-back, was wearing a broad grin as he put pen to paper in the trophy room at the Boleyn Ground.

"It's obviously brilliant to have signed the deal, especially being a West Ham fan as well," said Fry. "My Dad Ron is a West Ham supporter as well, so he'll never forget this day either.

"I've been here since I was eleven years of age so without him I wouldn't have got to where I have today. I live about 40 minutes away in Gravesend and he brought me in every day, making it possible for me to get where I am. My whole family, especially my Mum Lesley, brother Will and sister Tasha, have all been very supportive of me."

Fry has worked hard on and off the pitch to realise his dream of becoming a professional footballer, overcoming a knee injury and completing his studies at Gravesend Grammar School, earning eleven GCSEs, before concentrating fully on his football over the past two seasons.

"Anyone who thinks this journey has been easy would be wrong," he said. "At 14 I had an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury, and was out for the whole year watching everyone else play, which was difficult.

"I've always been focussed on where I want to be and I'm just so happy to have got my future sorted out. I've spent the past two years learning my trade as a scholar, but this is obviously a lot bigger and I'm proud to have signed it.

"This is a massive year for me now. I've got to get back in, get cracking and get my head down and hopefully get into the first-team squad.

"There are some good central defenders at the club and a lot I can learn from them. Matty Upson is someone I have kept a close eye on and James Tomkins is doing really well now, so they're both players I will watch closely."

Fry is the second Academy youngster to sign a full professional contract this summer, following promising forward Anthony Edgar.

Edgar, who also turns 19 in September, was in fantastic form as the 2008/09 season came to a close, scoring seven goals in 21 FA Premier Academy League South appearances.

Both Fry and Edgar formed part of West Ham's squad at the recent IP Global Soccer Sevens in Hong Kong and they will be eager to play a full part in the club's pre-season programme, which begins with a first-team friendly at Blue Square Premier outfit Grays Athletic on Saturday 11 July.