Phillips proud of England call-ups

October is a big month for four West Ham United Academy youngsters, all of whom have received their maiden England age-group call-ups.

First-year scholars Reece Burke and Kyle Knoyle have been included in the England U18 squad for the first time, while schoolboys Reece Oxford and Ben Sheaf have been called into the U16 squad.

West Ham U18s assistant manager Mark Phillips has worked with all four during his time coaching within the Hammers Academy and believes the quartet's individual performances this term warrant their call-ups.

Phillips, who until recently worked as the Club's U16s coach and has been involved with player development for many years, started by discussing the form of U18s right-back Knoyle and centre-back Burke. The duo will hope to feature in two behind-closed-doors matches with Hungary at St. George's Park on Friday 11 October and Monday 14 October,

"I'm delighted because those two thoroughly deserve their inclusion in the England U18 squad," said Phillips. "Kyle has been a consistent performer since he joined the Academy at the age of 13, while Reece has been with the Club since the U9s.

"In all fairness to Reece, and he'd probably admit this himself, he is really on an upward curve. In the last year, he has really come up and is at the top of his game.

"They are both good users of the ball and Reece, with his height, is quite dominant in the air in both penalty boxes and he gets his fair share of goals. It's good for the Academy as a whole that they have been called-up.

"When you ask people about West Ham, they tend to talk about flair midfield players and people who pass the ball, but we are producing good defenders and we did, of course, produce Bobby Moore!"

Moving onto Oxford and Sheaf, Phillips again believes the pair are fully deserving of their inclusion in the England U16 squad for the Sky Sports Victory Shield opener with Wales at Kidderminster Harriers' Aggborough Stadium on Friday 4 October.

The Academy coach began by talking about two players whose names will not be familiar to the vast majority of West Ham supporters.

"Reece came into the Club three years ago when he joined the U13s. He originally came into the Club as a centre forward and probably had about two or three months there before one of the coaches suggested he move to centre-back, and he hasn't looked back from there.

"He has learnt the position, has a thirst for knowledge and is excellent in both boxes and has got a good passing range. I think there is a lot of growth in him as a player as he has only been in the Academy for three years.

"Ben has been here since he was an U8. I've coached him as an U10, U13 and U14 and he's a box-to-box, all-round midfield player who can score goals. He is very good.

"The Victory Shield is televised by Sky Sports and the matches are played at stadia with a crowd and some players really rise to the occasion, and I think Reece and Ben will, as Glen Johnson did when he played in the same competition a few years back."

Tickets for Friday's 7.35pm kick-off at Aggborough Stadium are on sale now by calling 01562 823 931 or e-mailing [email protected]