Carr backs U18s for strong finish

The West Ham United Academy side head into their final game of the regular Barclays U18 Premier League season on Friday knowing a point will be enough to guarantee their presence in the Play-Offs.

West Ham currently sit second in the table and a draw against Arsenal would mean third-place Fulham no longer have a chance of catching the Hammers, thus earning Steve Potts' men a crack at Manchester City in the semi-finals of the four-team shootout.

Academy Director Tony Carr MBE believes a top-two finish would be a just reward for his charges, who have recovered from a recent blip to register four points from their last two games.

With the Development Squad's season now over, the U18s should be able to call upon more of their second year scholars and Carr says the team's winning mentality can see them through.

He said: "In some respects we've capitalised on the success of Fulham, because we were on a great run after Christmas, six or seven wins on the trot and we were bound for the play-offs.

"Then some of our players got promoted to the U21s and weakened our team, which is the natural thing to do at this time of year, so result-wise we suffered even though performances were still good.

"Fulham have now had to do that because of their run to the FA Youth Cup final and we've capitalised on their slip-up in results.

"When you get to U18 level, winning is an important part of their development. It's not win at all costs at that level, but you have to create a winning mentality. Now we're at the business end of the season as the old cliche goes, and we need a point on Friday and we'll be in the play-offs against Manchester City."

The last couple of weeks have proven difficult for the Academy, with Dylan Tombides' passing affecting the players and staff deeply.

Carr had high praise for Dylan's ability, saying it was cruel that such a talent had been taken too early.

He added: "We all believed that Dylan had all the credentials to go on and do good things for us. The year he was named Young Hammer of the Year, he went off to the U17 World Cup with Australia. Little did we know that was going to be the beginning of his illness and unfortunately his untimely death three years later.

"It's a lesson to every young player and young person really to live life to the full, give your maximum every day, because you just don't know what's round the corner for any of us."

Kick-off at Little Heath on Friday is at 1pm, with admission and parking both free of charge