Larkins learning fast

Jake Larkins is relishing being the No1 for the all-conquering Academy side this season.

The Hammers goalkeeper has already had a taste of first-team action, sitting on the bench behind Ruud Boffin at Blackburn Rovers last December at the tender age of 16. This campaign has seen him established as the first-choice keeper for the Under-18s and Larkins has played a major role in their run of seven unbeaten, including five wins.

While the likes of England starlet Leo Chambers and scoring sensation Elliot Lee have taken the headlines on occasion, Larkins has gone about his work with a quiet efficiency.

That was until the 3-1 defeat of Coventry City last month, when coach Nick Haycock singled him out for a man of the match display that saw him turn in "a commanding performance".

Speaking to West Ham TV, Larkins said: "It has gone well. I have played all but one of the games. We won the first five matches by keeping as a team. We haven't changed too much, everyone has played their part. We are on top form, even in training.

"When you are in a good team you have to be organised, and keep switched on just in case you are needed. [Against Coventry] it was good. It was a hard game, there were loads of balls in the box, the wind was pretty strong and they were much bigger than us. One of the strikers was a first-team player but we did play well on the day."

Larkins knows he is under pressure from David Wootton, currently out on loan, and first-year Sam Baxter with Academy goalkeeping coach Jerome John setting high standards.

"[The competition] is good. I have been waiting for the shirt and now it has come, I have to keep it. I have to keep my form up. If I have a bad run, they will be waiting to take my place."

Hammers fans missing the first-team action this weekend can always go along to see Larkins and his team-mates in action on Saturday at Little Heath. The Academy side will be bidding for an eighth game unbeaten at home to Ipswich Town, with kick-off at 11am.