U18s ready to play

Tony Carr is eager for his West Ham United Under-18s to get back to the great outdoors.

The Hammers' youth team have been confined to the indoor pitch at Chadwell Heath for the past week after their regular Little Heath base was left covered in snow and ice.

With undersoil heating allowing the first team to train outdoors, Carr and his youngsters were able to make use of the artificial pitch.

However, the Academy Director said everyone was desperate to get back on to the grass following the postponement of Saturday's FA Premier Academy League fixture at Arsenal.

"The players have been on a ten-day break over Christmas and the New Year, which gave them the chance to spend some time with their families, and they have come back to a frozen Little Heath.

"Unfortunately, we've been unable to get outside and train on the grass. Instead, we've been splitting our time between the weights room and the sports hall to try and do our football and our fitness work. It is OK for two or three days, but after a while it is not ideal.

"We had been looking forward to playing this weekend at Arsenal, having not played since 12 December, but the match was unable to go ahead. We want to get the rustiness out and prepare for our FA Youth Cup fourth-round tie against Queens Park Rangers on 19 January."

Despite their lack of competitive action, Carr said his players were in good condition ahead of next weekend's visit of Fulham to Little Heath.

"The boys certainly have not lost their fitness levels over the break, but they do lose a bit of edge and sharpness, which it takes about three or four days to get back.

"We tested them before they went away and we have tested them again now they have come back and, aside from a couple of pounds here and there, there has been nothing to worry about. It's understandable that some might put on a bit of weight but, in fact, a couple of the boys have come back thinner than when they went away!

"It's no big deal either way. In a few days, they'll all be back in perfect condition, I'm sure."