Hilts happy with U18s

Paul Hilton was full of praise for his young players following West Ham United's victory at the Southend United Youth Challenge Cup.

With Academy Director Tony Carr working in the United States, Hilton took charge of the Under-18s at Roots Hall with spectacular results.

The Hammers defeated the hosts on penalties before upsetting FA Premier Academy League champions Arsenal to lift the trophy, completing a fine weekend's work on the Essex coast.

"We're pleased with the workout over the weekend with the boys," Hilton told WHUTV. "It's the first time we've played this season, having done two or three weeks of pre-season training.

"It was a tough competition as the other teams had perhaps played a couple more games than us, but they all played a big part and we were very pleased to win."

Saturday's semi-final saw goalkeeper David Wootton steal the show, saving two penalties after captain Paco Craig had seen his spot-kick saved.

Hilton said the stopper's heroics had inspired his team-mates to go on and win the tournament.

"Praise be to Dave in the first game. He made a couple of great saves from the penalty spot and in open play as well.

"We could have probably won it in normal time when we missed a penalty with five minutes to go, but we were pleased with the boys looked at the penalties. They were professional and they did the job.

"In both games, we didn't pass the ball as well as we would have liked in the first half, even though they were the first games the lads had played. They grew a bit stronger in the second halves and performed better and created more chances. In the end, I think we possibly deserved the win."


Having worked with many of the new intake of first-year scholars in his regular role as U16 coach, Hilton believes the likes of England U17 forward Robert Hall, Blair Turgott, Matthias Fanimo, Dylan Tombides and Dominic Vose could flourish at FA Premier Academy League level.

However, the former West Ham defender warned his former charges that they will not have everything their own way straight away.

"Some of the lads have been here since U9s and the bulk of them have been here quite a while. They did some good things last year, there's no doubt about it. As a group, they have a good team spirit among them and a lot of ability. Hopefully, under Tony, they can grow into good professional players.

"The biggest problem they might have is coming in against older players. Last year, in their age-group, they scored quite a few goals. There is a lot of ability and attacking prowess in the team, but they've still got to defend as well, which they'll find they will have to do a bit more of this year."