Friday 09 May
Updated Friday 09 May 08:00

Cullen's final goal

Josh Cullen would love to complete a fine personal week by helping West Ham United reach the Barclays U18 Premier League Play-Off final.

The Hammers reached the Play-Offs after finishing second in the Southern Division and travel to Northern Division champions Manchester City for a one-legged semi-final on Saturday morning.

While West Ham will be the outsiders in the 11am kick-off at Platt Lane, Republic of Ireland U18 international Cullen is determined to end a memorable week on a high, having secured the Dylan Tombides Award for the Academy's best player of the season on Tuesday evening.

"We're in the Play-Offs and have a big match at Manchester City on Saturday and hopefully we can get the result there and finish the season well by ultimately winning the league," said the midfielder. "That's our aim as a team."

For Cullen, victory at Manchester City would give him the chance to lift a second piece of silverware after he was picked to win the Dylan Tombides Award ahead of 19-goal captain Kieran Bywater and full-back Lewis Page by Academy Director Tony Carr MBE.

"It's credit to all the other lads, as well, because they've been excellent this season. I don't think you could pick too many players and say they haven't had a good season, so I was pleased I managed to get the award. It's a great achievement for me and also for the other two nominees, who have also had very good seasons."

A central midfield player who joined West Ham from junior club Rayleigh Boys as a nine-year-old, Cullen has long been considered one of the brightest prospects within the Academy. Having turned 18 just last month, he is already targeting a place in the first-team squad after making nine Barclays U21 Premier League appearances in 2013/14.

"It's about trying to push for the first team now. It's been good stepping up to the Development Squad this season, but it's about taking it to the next level and hopefully I've settled in quite well. Hopefully I can push on next season and get in and around the first team and get that experience, because that's what it's all about.

"I try to work on all the aspects of my game. Being a modern midfielder is not easy because you've got to be able to do a lot of different things. I'm constantly working on my game, training hard and hoping to improve and become an all-round midfielder."

While a first-team squad place at West Ham is Cullen's long-term aim, he also holds international ambitions. After helping England U16s to win the Victory Shield in 2011, the teenager has switched allegiance to Republic of Ireland, where his family hail from.

Having featured twice for the Irish U18s in friendly matches with Czech Republic in April this year, the Westcliff-on-Sea born player is hoping to pull on the green shirt again in the near future.

"It's a great privilege to play international football. I played for England which was a nice touch, but now I've moved to play for Ireland as I have family who are fully Irish. It's representing a country I care about and it's another chance to show what I can do at a another level.

"We have got the UEFA European U19 Championship qualifiers next season, so that's another aim, to keep pushing on there and see what comes of it."