Hammers boosting national cause

Under-18s coach Nick Haycock believes West Ham United are doing everything they can to boost England's chances of enjoying success at international level.

While many leading clubs choose to recruit Academy players from all over the world, the Hammers have largely stuck to their traditions of spotting and developing the best local talent. Haycock also dismissed criticism of the level of coaching being provided to youngsters as being a reason for England's supposed under-achievement at the senior level.

As one of the country's leading Category One Academies, West Ham have everything in place to continue to producing the very best young players, many of whom hail from the local area. Haycock also revealed that the Hammers are not afraid to look at other clubs in their quest to improve the level of provision made to the club's youngsters.

"We play every other Category One side in the country and at every club the players are being taught to the play the game the right way by experienced coaches," said Haycock, whose Hammers host Reading in the Barclays U18 Premier League at Little Heath on Saturday at 11am. Admission and parking are both free of charge.

"There is a fantastic core of coaches in this country. The biggest problem with the English national team is not the quality of coaching but the lack of opportunity for young English players to play at a level that will allow them to develop as footballers. Spain can choose from lots of players who have played in the Primera Division since the age of 17 or 18 because it's not a global league like the Premier League.

"The top clubs are bringing in young players from all over the world, with the top clubs spending fortunes on European players. For us at West Ham, our whole ethos is about developing young local talent. We have been looking at the Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, who are from the Basque region and look at bringing in players from their local area. They don't have too many internationals but they've been a successful Primera Division side.

"That's how we look at ourselves in England, so to all the young players out there, we have a good coaching system at West Ham and there are opportunities. We are recruiting local players to try to develop them and that has to be done across the nation if we are to boost the national side.

"The problem is that if you want the Premier League to be the best in the world, clubs will recruit the best from across the world and it makes it harder for younger English players to get opportunities to play against the best players. We're getting young players in the England national team who are not necessarily first-choice for their club teams, whereas in Spain, Germany and France they are - that's the biggest thing."

Haycock took his Under-18 side to Belgium in pre-season, where they faced teams from Belgium, Netherlands, Croatia and Denmark, while the Development Squad travelled to Russia for a prestigious international tournament. At both competitions, the Hammers' youngsters were praised for their technical ability by coaches from European clubs.

"These competitions are good tests because they try to play football and we try to play football and we always get complimented on the way we try to play against them. Clubs like Inter and AC Milan, Juventus and Ajax have all praised us.

"Four years ago, I remember [former Netherlands international and current Ajax manager] Frank de Boer complimented us on the way we changed our team during games, rather than trying to win the tournament. He said to me 'You made 12 substitutions in the final so that everybody played and the other team didn't make one because they wanted to win'.

"I don't agree with the criticism being aimed at our coaching. The introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan and the opening of the Football Association's national football centre at St George's Park show everyone is trying to work together more than they ever have done to promote the national team. We have lots of in-service stuff going on at West Ham too, to improve the levels of our own coaching.

"Make no mistake - we try to teach the boys to play the right way. The pace of the game in the Premier League is a lot faster than it is in Spain, but that is the culture. The fans demand speed and tempo and pace and power and we have to try to develop players who have got that, but have also got the technical and tactical cutting edge like our European counterparts seem to have, which is not easy."