'I'm really over the moon'

Eighteen months ago, Callum McNaughton was nursing a leg injury and facing up to the very real prospect that he may be released by West Ham United.

This week, the tall centre-back sat down at the Boleyn Ground to sign his second professional contract with the Hammers following an outstanding 2010/11 season.

McNaughton, who joined the club at the age of 14, saw his fitness and form improve markedly last season, enjoying a productive loan spell at Blue Square South side Bishop's Stortford before being appointed as West Ham's reserve-team captain.

Showing leadership qualities, determination and composure in equal measure, the 19-year-old has come on in leaps and bounds and is now eyeing a first-team debut in the near future.

"This is my second contract now and I'm really happy to have signed it," said the flame-haired defender. "It's what I really wanted so I'm really over the moon and am excited about it and what I can do next season.

"I felt like I progressed throughout last year and did well, improved a lot and I really enjoyed my football as well. It was positive and I hope to build on it this year.

"I think it was a learning curve and I learned more and more. The loan spell at Stortford did me a lot of good because I got a lot of football - eight games in a month - so that helped me a lot.

"My confidence and my play improved and it's really nice that I can enjoy my football more and more."

Looking back at the dark days of the 2009/10 season, McNaughton could have been forgiven for giving up on his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

He did not choose the easy way out, though, and has shown a huge amount of desire to bounce back and establish himself in West Ham's reserve team.

Now, McNaughton naturally wants to take the final step.

"I always knew what I wanted and believed I could achieve it. It was just a case of proving it and I've just come through this 18 months and felt like I've progressed and I'm really happy.

"I've got loads of small goals to meet to make it to my big goal of making my first-team debut this season.

"I believe in myself and it's what I really want. It's what I have worked hard for and it is my main goal to play for this club.

"I'll keep working hard and I'll keep progressing and I definitely hope to achieve that."