Eagles swoop for Sears

West Ham United can confirm that Freddie Sears has joined Coca-Cola Championship side Crystal Palace on a season-long loan.

The 19-year-old striker cut short his summer holiday to return to the Boleyn Ground to complete the move, which will see him remain at Selhurst Park until May 2010, on Friday afternoon.

Prolific at youth and reserve team level, Sears scored on his Barclays Premier League debut against Blackburn Rovers in March 2008. Last September, the teenager scored all four goals in the Hammers' 4-3 Barclays Premier Reserve League South win over West Bromwich Albion.

West Ham United manager Gianfranco Zola believes Sears will benefit from his time with Palace, who finished 15th in the Championship standings last season. The manager has urged the teenager to seize the opportunity to improve his game while playing regular first-team football.

"I probably didn't give him as many opportunities as he probably needed but that is part of the game sometimes," said Zola. "I believe in him. He's got good talent and good qualities.

"In the last few weeks of the season I saw him improving. We are trying to add something to his game because, with the kind of body he has got, he needs to add something to his game.

"We have been talking about him and said we have seen him improving. I my view, he needs to go out and play consistently and get his game going again. Then, he will be an important player for us in the future."

Youngsters James Tomkins, Junior Stanislas and Josh Payne spent time on loan at Derby County, Southend United and Cheltenham Town respectively last season, with all three returning to the Boleyn Ground before forcing their way into Gianfranco Zola's first-team squad.

Sears could make his debut in Palace's pre-season friendly at Boreham Wood on Thursday 9 July.