Ian Hendon and his Development Squad will end a busy season by jetting to Hong Kong for the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens tournament.
With the first team in the npower Championship Play-Off final on Saturday, a young West Ham United squad will represent the club in the prestigious seven-a-side tournament in the Far East.
The likes of Jordan Spence, Dan Potts, Rob Hall, Olly Lee and Eoin Wearen will form the backbone to Hendon's side as they take on Leicester City, HKFC Captain's Select and Celtic in Group B on Saturday. With Chelsea, Newcastle United and Aston Villa among the 16 clubs taking part, competition is set to be fierce, with the finals taking place on Sunday.
Hendon spoke to West Ham TV about a successful 2011/12 campaign and his hopes of finishing the season on a high.
Hendo, we have reached the climax of the season after more than 30 Development Squad fixtures. It has been a successful campaign, hasn't it?
IH - It has most definitely been a positive season. I have been looking over the stats and we have used more than 70 players throughout the season, ranging from 16 or 17-year-old lads in the system through to trialists to my own players and senior professionals dropping down. We've had 30-odd games and it's been a bit of a gruelling season.
We might not have been in a reserve-team league, but all of the Development Squad matches have been competitive and players have had their individual points to prove, haven't they?
IH - Most definitely. We played a lot of games against Premier League and Football League sides who have put their squad players in and it has been a good test for the young lads this season. You cannot replicate playing against season professionals so it has prepared the boys for what is ahead, really.
Who have been the standout performers for the Development Squad this season?
IH - There are standout performances which come to mind straight away, but there are also players who have played the majority of the games this year - 20-25 games throughout the season - who have dealt with it better than most. We have had so many changes to the team week-in, week-out that they have been the ones who have put in consistent performances. The likes of Callum Driver, Eoin Wearen, Olly Lee, George Moncur and Rob Hall have been in there when they haven't been out on loan, while Brian Montenegro has been fantastic all year and his goal-ratio is superb. A lot of the scholars have stepped up like Blair Turgott and Kenzer Lee - the list is almost endless. The players who have done well are the ones who have played the majority of the games.
It also represents a new challenge for yourself, who has been used to managing a smaller squad as a first-team manager and assistant manager, doesn't it?
IH - I think the major thing for myself was not being in a league. Whereas before I've been used to having days to prepare for a match and trying to actually win something, the difficulty for me has been playing friendlies and having different lads every week. I've had a day's notice to prepare a group for a game. In the ideal world you'd like three or four days to prepare for a match and to do a bit of scouting on the opposition so you know what is coming. You go in blind a lot of the time. It's been a bit of a learning curve for myself, if I'm being honest, but it's something I've got used to and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.
The system appears to have worked, with players coming up from the Academy and through to either the first-team squad or out on loan to Football League clubs?
IH - The players have developed, I'd like to think. It's about getting these players ready for the first team. They played friendlies aganist professional clubs and if we look at them and they handle it, we look to get them out on loan to league clubs. Quite a few have gone out and I've been out and monitored their development and they've done ever so well. A lot of them have taken a step in the right direction this year.
Finally, you and your Development Squad fly to Hong Kong this week for the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens. You must all be looking forward to it?
IH - I've actually played in this competition at the ripe old age of 35! If they think they are going there for a nice end-of-season trip they are mistaken because they're going to play on a huge pitch with six outfield players and a goalkeeper and they'll be getting a workout. It's tough! That said, it is enjoyable and it's a nice break at the end of the season and a reward for their hard work. We're going to play some tournament football against some good teams - Celtic and Leicester are in our group along with the Hong Kong Football Club . Let's hope the weather is nice because they've been having thunderstorms this week!
Will you be able to watch the npower Championship Play-Off final on Saturday?
IH - The game will kick-off at 10pm Hong Kong time. We're very disappointed that we'll miss the game at Wembley, especially myself as I've been involved in the first team myself at times this season. We'll get together and watch it. There is a big screen at Hong Kong Football Club and we'll all be there watching with interest.
For more information about the HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens, click here.