Potts urges U18s to learn from defeat

Steve Potts was just 17 when he was part of a West Ham United side shocked 4-1 at Swindon Town in the FA Youth Cup back in January 1985.

The defeat hurt Potts, but the defender bounced back from the disappointment to enjoy a fantastic career that saw him make more than 500 first-team appearances for the Hammers.

Twenty-eight years on and the 45-year-old saw his West Ham side knocked out of the FA Youth Cup at the fourth-round stage courtesy of a 5-2 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday. With his own experiences to draw upon, Potts said it was now up to his young players to come back stronger.

"At the time it certainly hurt me and I can still remember it vividly thinking 'How did we get knocked out?' but it happened," confirmed Potts. "You've got to put it to one side and push on, that's for sure, because that's football. They are young kids and it happens to senior pros - they have their highs and lows like everyone else and they have to move on fast.

"I said to them afterwards, if we'd won it would not make them fantastic players overnight and that they'd have to keep their heads and not get carried away. They have come unstuck but they haven't become bad players overnight, that's for sure. They are at West Ham because they are good players.

"Now they have to think about what they did well and didn't do so well and learn from it. Hopefully, they will get back to training in the next day or two and try to put it right and push on from here. What they don't want is feelings like that all the time - disappointment at losing a bit cup game."

West Ham made the worst-possible start, scoring two own-goals and conceding a route-one third to fall 3-0 down within 23 minutes. Potts was pleased to see his team battle back to 3-2 midway through the second half, with Elliot Lee and Kieran Bywater both on target, only for Spurs to expose more defensive frailties to complete a comfortable victory.

"It was very disappointing for the lads because you don't get many cracks at the FA Youth Cup. We let them play a little bit too much and they had the quality to hurt us and they did. We got ourselves back in it at 3-1 and Elliot gave us a lifeline at half-time.

"It did go through my mind that if we got another one back it could all change and we did get one back to make it 3-2 and I thought 'Here we go' because we still had 20 or 25 minutes to go. Unfortunately, all their goals we could have done better on but they have got to learn from it.

"I think if you look at all the goals we conceded and we could have done something to stop conceding them. I said to the lads afterwards that they are going up a level now and if you make mistakes you will get punished and you don't get as many chances to score at the other end. That's how it goes as you get older and that's what they have got to get their heads around."

While it was a night of ultimate disappointment, Potts was pleased by the nature of West Ham's two goals, which came during a period of Hammers superiority either side of half-time.

"Elliot's was a really good goal to start with. He has collected the ball in our half and gone the length of their half of the pitch and still had the composure to put it in the back of the net. The second goal, he has picked Kieran Bywater out really well with a nice clip to the far post and Kieran has finished it off really well. It looked like an easy chance but he has kept his composure and put it in the corner."

Finally, Potts himself has vowed to learn from Tuesday's defeat as he continues his embryonic career as U18s manager.

"I've had two games in charge and we've played Tottenham twice. It went in our favour in the league game. Looking at the two games, Tottenham had a fair bit of the first game but the difference is we managed to keep it tight and while you do that you always have a chance. We did that and we got our goal and won the game 1-0.

"On Tuesday, we obviously didn't keep it as tight so it was difficult for the boys but fair play to them because they kept going and almost turned the game around."

West Ham United U18s: Guzman, Alexander, Shaw, Harney, Nasha (Marlow 77), Miles (Onariase 70), Cullen, Bywater, Sadlier, Mavila (Gogo 81), Lee
Subs not used: Brown, Page