Montano looking forward

When he was growing up in the Colombian city of Cali, Cristian Montano could have only dreamed of becoming a professional footballer.

While a place in West Ham United's first team may still be some way off, the 18-year-old forward has ended the best season of his career so far by being named as the most-promising  player in the club's famous Academy.

Montano, who moved to London as a youngster, was presented with the Doris Bell Award - chosen by Academy Director Tony Carr - following the Barclays Premier League draw with Manchester City that closed out the 2009/10 season.

The South American-born player follows the likes of Junior Stanislas, Jack Collison and Freddie Sears in receiving the prestigious award.

It was a fitting end to a hugely encouraging season for the youngster, who ended as the Under-18s top scorer with nine goals, scored his first for the reserves against Fulham last month, and turned in a fine performance in Carr's recent star-studded Testimonial match.

"I can't really explain how I feel. It is a big thing for me to achieve I have achieved so far. I have got to thank Tony Carr and the other people around me for supporting me over the last two years - people like Alex Dyer and others who have played a part in my development as well. Without them, I wouldn't have won this award.

"It's a big thing. When I played in the Testimonial I shared a dressing room with players who now play for Manchester United and Chelsea, so Tony has proved it again and again. I'm just glad I've got this award, especially as I wasn't expecting it.

"I've just got to keep going and not think that anything is over yet. I've got to keep improving and doing what I have been doing and, if I do get a chance in the first team, I've got to take it.

"I want to play regular reserve football next season and see how that goes and hopefully I'll get scouted and go out and play some first-team football on loan if I get the chance."

Montano's footballing ambition is to follow in the footsteps of his hero, former Newcastle United striker Faustino Asprilla, and play for his native Colombia.

Before then, he has a season-ending trip to the Far East for the HKFC IP Global International Soccer Sevens to look forward to with the action getting under way on Saturday.

"It's a nice way to end the season. We want to have a good time, but we also want to do well and go far in the tournament."

While Montano moves on to his first year as a professional, he believes the Under-18s will have a fine FA Premier Academy League season in 2010/11, with the likes of England U17 striker Robert Hall and England U16 midfielders Matthias Fanimo and Blair Turgott forming the basis for what should be a strong side.

"They will have a good team next year. They will do well. They have got England players and they are capable of doing good things. They have got good defenders and everyone is good on the ball. Hopefully they'll all go on and do well."