Planning for an elite future

West Ham United have long held close links with the Football Association and the England national team.

Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters inspired England to FIFA World Cup glory in 1966, Ron Greenwood managed the Three Lions from 1977 to 1982, Sir Trevor Brooking has served as the FA's director of football development since 2003 and the Hammers have provided no fewer than 38 senior England internationals.

Working alongside Sir Trevor is FA director of elite development Dan Ashworth, the former Norwich City player and West Bromwich Albion sporting and technical director who was appointed to his role in September 2012.

Ashworth welcomed West Ham to the FA National Football Centre at St George's Park last week, where his own links with the Hammers were revealed - including the fact he was Jack Collison's Academy coach at both Peterborough United and Cambridge United.

"Yes, that was a good few years ago now!" Ashworth told West Ham TV. "Jack initially came through the youth system at Peterborough when I was there and then came to Cambridge before he got a move to West Ham at the age of 16.

"Jack was always an exceptional player and he was always very professional in his approach to everything he did and I'm delighted he's become an established Premier League player.

"He is another one who graduated at West Ham, who have a fantastic track record of producing young players for their own team, for other teams and of course for the national team. He is another one to come off the conveyor belt of talented West Ham players."

Sam Allardyce

Big Sam chats to Gareth Southgate and Dan Ashworth

In his role, Ashworth is charged with overseeing a wide range of areas focused on producing the best possible players and coaches for English football, from the grassroots to the elite level.

"My role varies immensely and that's the beauty of it. It involves working closely with Sir Trevor and [England U21s manager] Gareth Southgate on developing the teams from U21s down and the Women's teams from U20s down.

"I also oversee talent identification and performance services, which involves sports science, psychology, physiotherapy and also coach education. It's really varied, really interesting and based at a fantastic facility at St George's Park. It's a really good job."

Dan Ashworth and Trevor Brooking

Sir Trevor Brooking works closely with Dan Ashworth

At present, West Ham have players in every age-group England squad. West Ham TV asked Ashworth how the best teenagers are identified to represent the national side between the U16 and U21 levels.

"We have recently appointed a new head of talent identification for the younger teams, which is the first time we have done that. He is starting to set up some structures to give us more comprehensive coverage across the country.

"We have a series of part-time scouts and also have good relationships with the clubs, so with West Ham that means we would pick up the phone and talk to Tony Carr on a regular basis. He has such vast experience that he knows the level and knows which players would be suitable for England.

"There is a little bit of both us getting out and about and also the clubs working with us as well."

While there has been criticism of the number of English players representing clubs in the Barclays Premier League, West Ham's U18s are going great guns this season with an almost exclusively English team. So, does Ashworth believe there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the national side?

"There are! I am really optimistic about the future, as I've said on many occasions. Some of the changes we and the Premier League are making with the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) can only help in terms of contact time with the players and higher standards for the coaches.

"I'm really convinced we are going to be a force going forward in a few years when all these changes start to take effect."

Finally, Ashworth said the FA were delighted to welcome West Ham to St George's Park for a second time as Sam Allardyce's side trained ahead of their trip to Stoke City.

"That was one of the reasons it was built - not just for England but for English teams. We welcome professional teams here, just as much as we welcome grassroots teams and the national team.

"The facilities are here for everyone to use, not just the FA but for the whole of English football."