Lee passing on experience

As a former England international with well over 800 league and cup appearances under his belt during a stellar 23-year playing career, Rob Lee knows exactly what it takes to make it as a professional footballer.

West Ham-born Lee, who was part of England's 1998 World Cup squad and won 21 caps for his country, enjoyed spells as a player with Charlton Athletic, Newcastle United, Derby County and, between August 2003 and November 2004, West Ham United.

The all-action midfielder, who scored on his England debut against Romania at Wembley in 1994, also bagged more than 120 goals for club and country. Now, though, his attention has turned from his own career to that of son Ollie, who is currently working his way through the Hammers' world-famous Academy.

Ollie, who is 17, has been a regular member of Tony Carr's Under-18 side in this season's FA Premier Academy League. A midfield player like his father, the younger Lee also impressed in the Barclays Premier Academy League South fixture against Aston Villa earlier this month in an unaccustomed right wing-back position.

Dad Rob is a permanent fixture at his son's matches and takes an active interest in Ollie's development into, he hopes, a top-class footballer in his own right.

"Ollie has been progressing very well, especially recently," said Rob. "His confidence has gone right up. He's a big lad and he's still developing. He's not one of those that developed very quickly - it's just been slow progress over the course of the last year or so and he's starting to look like a bit of a player now.

"Having a Dad like myself sometimes helps and sometimes it's a hindrance. I don't say anything during the games, I leave that to Tony Carr and the coaching team and rightly so. I tell him how I think he played after the games and I'll be very critical of the way he played and to be fair to him he's very critical of the way he plays anyway and knows when he has done well and when he hasn't. I give him advice when it's needed and I tell him off when it's needed and I give him praise when it's due."

While lifelong West Ham supporter Rob waited until he was past his 37th birthday before pulling on the famous claret and blue shirt, the proud father hopes his son will do so slightly earlier in his own career.

"I hope so. I did it very late in my career and would have liked to have done it in my heyday and hopefully he will do it in his. He played in the reserves when he was only 15 and I never did that so he's progressing well but it is a tough sport and a tough career and you need to keep progressing every single year and at the moment he is doing that.

"The Academy has got a very good reputation and as long as he progresses every year I will be pleased. West Ham have bought some fantastic players through and he couldn't be at a better place at the moment."