Haycock backs youngsters to shine

Development Squad manager Nick Haycock believes West Ham United's young professionals can seize their chance in Sunday's FA Cup with Budweiser third-round tie at Nottingham Forest.

Injuries and suspensions mean Hammers manager Sam Allardyce will take a number of the Club's U21 squad to the City Ground.

The likes of Dan Potts, Leo Chambers and Elliot Lee have already featured for the first team this season, while Matthias Fanimo, Blair Turgott - back from a successful loan spell at Colchester United - and new signing Jaanai Gordon will hope to bolster the attack if called upon.

"It's pleasing because we've had our own successes with having players in and around the first team this season," said Haycock. "It is difficult for players to break through into the Premier League because of the financial pressures of staying in there.

"It's four-year plans that we have in place with these players [from the age of 18]. The Board and the manager have backed the system and the long-term planning we have with these players.

"In the short-term, if players get chances in the cup competitions then it's an ideal opportunity for them to stake their claim. Opportunities come at different times in people's careers, so when they get it, they have to take it."

On Sunday, that opportunity could come against an experienced Nottingham Forest team which sits fifth in the Championship and has lost just four league games out of 24 this season.

"In terms of attitude, I have no concerns over the boys who will travel up for the game," Haycock continued. "What they'll have to do is handle the extra pressure and expectation levels of playing in front of a crowd and against league opposition.

"I've got full confidence that they will hold their own and it'll be nice for the manager to see that first-hand as he is taking a team with young players in it and gets a feel for them. I think it's a fantastic opportunity for them.

"All players talk but talk is cheap. In football it is about your performance and if they go and perform and do the basics right, as they have done regularly in the U21 league, then they can show the manager that they can play at first-team level."

Haycock's youngsters enjoyed an outstanding first half of the season, losing just one of their ten Barclays U21 Premier League matches and defeating Bristol City to advance to the last-16 of the Barclays U21 Premier League Cup.

"We did a big staff presentation over at Rush Green before Christmas where all members of staff fed back on their departments and the targets they had been set and it was a good day," he confirmed. "It culminated in a presentation I gave about developing a winning mentality among the 17 to 21-year-olds.

"If you look at the work Steve Potts has done with the U18s, who are also sat near the top of their table, the only blight was the Accrington game. Even then, if you look at the stats, it was a game we should have put to bed but never did. Those U18s will now push into the U21s.

"The target at the start of the season was to develop a winning mentality and to push players through the age-groups and we now do that on a regular basis from the U9s upwards.

"You'll now see two different squads after Christmas with U21s going up into the first team or out on good Football League loans, with the U18s being given the chance to play in the U21s. We're in a good position.

"The league positions may drop a little, but our goal is to give Sam as many players at the highest quality that we can."