Loan stars in spotlight

There will be five Football League fixtures featuring homegrown Hammers out on loan to catch the eye this weekend.

With Matthew Fry heading out this week to Gillingham, he has joined Freddie Sears (Crystal Palace), Jordan Spence (Scunthorpe United), Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson (Cheltenham Town) and Anthony Edgar (Bournemouth) in getting the chance for first-team experience. The Academy graduates are all being monitored by the club's coaching and scouting staff in the hope they will return to challenge.

Spence, in many ways, has become the standard-bearer this season - establishing himself as a regular for Championship outfit Scunthorpe after a similarly successful spell last season with Leyton Orient. He certainly has faith in the loan system and is hopeful it will lead to bigger and better things for he and his club-mates.

"They are good players so I'm sure they'll find their feet," he said. "I think the first thing when you go away is to integrate yourself. I've been blessed really as I went to Leyton Orient and that was a really good environment.

"Then I've come up here to Scunthorpe where it's worked well and I've been looked after well. I'm sure they will be well looked after at their respective clubs and the experience will help them become better players when they come back."

For those away from the Boleyn Ground there is also the example of Bondz 'Gala, James Tomkins, Josh Payne and Zavon Hines to follow - with all four having forced their way into Gianfranco Zola's thinking after recent loans.

"They've made their debuts and gone on to good things so it's been brilliant," Spence added. "It shows first and foremost what a brilliant set-up we've got down at West Ham at the Academy and it's great the opportunities are there.

"From a personal level, our developments are always going to be at different levels and by the grace of God I will get my chance, hopefully in the West Ham first team," added the 19-year-old, who has been capped at every England youth level up to the Under-20s. "If that opportunity does come then hopefully I will take it and I can push on and get further international honours - but it is one step at a time."

Although the loanees have all taken their game on under the guidance of reserve-team coach Alex Dyer and the close interest shown by Gianfranco Zola, Steve Clarke and Kevin Keen, the common thread has been their rise through the ranks under Academy director Tony Carr. His influence is never far away, said Spence.

"It's hard not to remember the things he tells you, they got drilled into us every single day. I think it is just the good habits and the good grounding, getting taught to play football the right way.

"We get a good grounding and we get taught by someone whose track record speaks for itself. That development and now with the management staff at the club, the opportunity is there. It's something that's helped and will continue to help us."