Busy pre-season for U18s

West Ham United's youngsters will enjoy a host of challenges during a busy schedule of pre-season fixtures.

The Under-18s - guided by Tony Carr MBE - are looking forward to the 2010/11 FA Premier Academy League season with optimism and will be fully prepared after contesting eight friendly matches.

With the likes of England Under-17 striker Rob Hall and England U16 midfielders Matthias Fanimo and Blair Turgott among an intake of 13 schoolboys this summer, the Academy Director is excited about his team's prospects.

"We begin at a two-day festival of football at Southend United," Carr confirmed. "We took part in it last year and it was very good, so we were more than happy to take part again.

"We have tried to organise more matches than usual for two main reasons - first, we are not going on tour and second, we have a big squad this year and playing eight games means everybody will have the opportunity to play plenty of football.

"We have got a nice spread of matches against both non-league and Football League clubs, while we will face either Arsenal or FC Twente from the Netherlands at the Southend tournament."

The pre-season will begin with the Southend United Youth Tournament at Roots Hall on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 July. West Ham will face the hosts in the semi-finals before taking on either Arsenal or Dutch club FC Twente in the final or third-place play-off.

Trips to non-league Great Wakering Rovers on Wednesday 28 July and Heybridge Swifts on Saturday 31 July follow.

Ipswich Town will welcome the Hammers on Wedensday 4 August before Carr's squad make the short trip to Leyton Orient on Saturday 7 August.

The U18s complete their schedule with away games at Hornchurch on Tuesday 10 August and Norwich City on Saturday 14 August before the new FA Premier Academy League season commences on Saturday 21 August.

West Ham ended the 2009/10 campaign fifth in the ten-team Group A table, winning ten, drawing eight and losing ten of their 28 league matches.

The Hammers also reached the FA Youth Cup fifth round, beating Plymouth Argyle and Queens Park Rangers before being knocked out by Newcastle United.

Pre-season fixtures

Saturday 24 July v Southend United (at Roots Hall)
Sunday 25 July v Arsenal/FC Twente (at Roots Hall)
Wednesday 28 July, 7.30pm v Great Wakering Rovers (A)
Saturday 31 July, 3pm v Heybridge Swifts (A)
Wednesday 4 August, 2pm v Ipswich Town (A)
Saturday 7 August, 11am v Leyton Orient (A)
Tuesday 10 August, 7.30pm v Hornchurch (A)
Saturday 14 August, 11am v Norwich City (A)