Spence pushing on

An encouraging sight around the first team squad in recent weeks has been the progress made by Jordan Spence.

The Academy graduate has returned from a couple of loan spells and been given a chance to show Gianfranco Zola and his staff how he has progressed. Still only 19, Spence has done well in the last two reserve fixtures - including Monday's practice game against San Jose Earthquakes - and was part of the matchday squad for the Barclays Premier League visit of Bolton last Saturday.

Spence, who has captained England at every level up to Under-20, does not turn 20 until May but has already amassed 29 league appearances at Leyton Orient and Scunthorpe United. It is at the Boleyn Ground though where he wants to knuckle down and prove he has the ability to make the grade. As such, his recent performances have seen him show more of the attacking side of his game.

"The defensive side of the position comes more naturally from playing regularly at centre-back," he said. "But I have been playing right-back more consistently lately. I feel I have a lot to offer going forward.

"I have been staying out at the end of training with Kev [Keen] and a few of the boys working on crossing and delivery into the box. I see how Julien [Faubert] often gets into those areas and really puts quality telling balls in."

Spence did just that to set up the winning goal after surging forward in the reserves' recent 2-1 win against Chelsea while he was deployed in an experimental holding midfield role at times during the Monday match against San Jose. At right-back, he knows that he has the advantage of assistant manager Steve Clarke and reserve-team coach Alex Dyer's extensive knowledge from their own playing days.

"It is a great opportunity. Steve offers help as that was the position he made his own during his career. There is a lot of help around for me and they are helping me to learn the position and get better."