Carr targets strong finish

Academy Director Tony Carr is targeting victory in West Ham United U18s' final home FA Premier Academy League fixture of the season.

The Hammers host Leicester City on Saturday at Little Heath - kick-off 11.30am - knowing three points could secure them a top-two Group A finish. With that in mind, Carr is aiming to sign-off the club's 2011/12 slate of home games on a positive note.

The game will also mark a final Little Heath appearance for a host of second-year scholars, some of whom will remain at the club as professionals and others who will move on to pastures new after being released.

"We host Leicester City in our final home game today and unfortunately it's an 11.30am kick-off so the traffic may prevent a lot of fans getting to the match and then driving to Upton Park. We've been looking forward to it and hopefully we can sign off with a victory in our final home match.

"A number of the players will soon leave the Academy and go into the Development Squad, while others will be released at the end of this season, so for them it will be their final appearance at Little Heath.

"The ones who are staying have to stake their claims in Ian Hendon's squad and push on towards the first-team squad."

Carr looked back on what has been a productive season for the Academy. Not only have the U18s done well in the league, but they reached the last-16 of the FA Youth Cup and saw three players make their first-team debuts.

"We started off with a trip to Estonia in August and began the campaign with five straight wins, then we stumbled and picked up again and had a decent run in the FA Youth Cup before losing to Chelsea on penalties.

"All in all, it's been a decent season. Three former youth-team players have made their first-team debuts in Callum McNaughton, Rob Hall and Daniel Potts, so in terms of development it's been a good season.

"We're greedy and we want to increase that tally next season."

While the season may be coming to an end, Carr and his staff will continue the hard work behind the scenes as the club awaits its first Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) audit.

The new criteria for youth football will see all clubs graded and Carr is aiming for Category One status, which will enable the club to spend more time coaching and educating schoolboys and scholars.

"Our work towards the new Elite Player Performance Plan continues and it will be a busy summer at the Academy. We have expanded and recruited new staff in recent weeks to improve our player/staff ratio because we want to get Category One status.

"We will be audited sometime between now and next season and hopefully we will reach that standard and move on from there."

*First-year scholar Leo Chambers has been in action for England's U17s as they seek to qualify for the UEFA European Championship finals in Georgia.

England defeated Ukraine 1-0 in their opening Elite Round fixture before Chambers returned from injury to play as a late substitute in their 1-0 defeat by the mini-group hosts.

The Young Lions face Spain in Tbilisi on Saturday knowing only a win will give them a chance of qualifying for the final tournament in Slovenia in the summer.