Bywater eyeing regular U21 spot

Kieran Bywater is just one of a host of West Ham United youngsters hoping to catch the eye during the pre-season.

The second-year scholar made great strides forward last term, producing a series of impressive performances in an attacking midfield role for both the Under-18s and the Development Squad.

Still just 17, Bywater has started 2013/14 as a member of Nick Haycock's Under-21 side, and the teenager has big ambitions to make his mark at that level on a regular basis.

"Hopefully I can keep pushing within the Under-21s and keep my position in the midfield again this season," he confirmed to West Ham TV.

"I hope we can also have a good FA Youth Cup run with the other lads in my age-group. Those are my ambitions for the season, to keep working hard in training and producing performances to match.

"There is a great team spirit and everyone gets on really well, which creates a good environment around the Club - everyone gets on well throughout the first team, Under-21s and Under-18s.

"You've got to have a good laugh but you've got to be focused during the training sessions and games. That's the balance. Everyone works had individually, but collectively you've got to work hard so that the individuals can come out within that, so it's all good."

Bywater has featured in all three Development Squad fixtures so far - a 4-0 win over Swansea City followed by narrow 3-2 defeats by an experienced Wolverhampton Wanderers team and Conference National outfit Braintree Town.

The matches have each provided a different sort of challenge for Bywater and his young team-mates, with Swansea passing the ball fluently, Wolves including a host of senior players and Braintree posing a more physical threat.

"I think everyone has been getting back into it and getting their minutes under their belts. In all the training sessions and the matches, people are trying to put some good performances in before the season starts.

"Everyone played well that day against Swansea. We made quite a lot of changes during the game, but everybody played well who came into the side after half-time and kept up our high standards. It was a good win.

"It was a good experience for the lads against Wolves. It's always good to play against those sorts of players [Kevin Doyle, Karl Henry, Jamie O'Hara and Stephen Ward] in pre-season and give everyone that experience before the season starts.

"To mark yourself up against those sorts of players, you get an insight into where you need to be and whether you can compete at that level. I think everyone found that they can compete at that level.

"We've just got to keep working hard and concentrating in training and games so everyone can be playing at that level in the future."

"Some sides like Braintree are more experienced than us and play a bit more direct as well. We can take some positives and some negatives from the game to make sure we can cope against similar sides in the future."

The Development Squad return to action on Monday 29 July, when they travel to Roots Hall to take on League Two side Southend United in a 7.45pm kick-off.

Bywater could be joined in midfield by more senior colleagues following the first team's return from Germany but, whoever he is playing alongside, the talented youngster is relishing the opportunity to test himself against seasoned professionals once again.

"Hopefully we will have some young players out again and, once again, it will be a great experience for the lads playing against some older and more experienced players. We'll be tested again before the season starts."