Big Sam attends U9 signing evening

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce helped welcome new recruits to the heart of the Academy recently when the Club hosted an induction evening for U9 players at the Boleyn Ground.

The youngsters all signed their first schoolboy forms with the club, with their proud families in attendance and were each presented with a signed shirt by manager Allardyce and academy director Tony Carr MBE.

Also present to say hello to the new members of the West Ham academy were U21 Development Squad players Dan Potts and Elliot Lee, who themselves joined the club at a similar age.

As the families looked on, the young lads signed their contracts which will see them work under the tutelage of the Academy coaches next season as they look to improve their skills and progress to the next level.

Allardyce, who took time out from the busy end-of-season schedule to attend, said: "It is an incredibly proud moment for the Club as well as these young lads and their families. The Academy is the heartbeat of every football club, especially at a club like ours and at this stage, it is all about encouragement and enjoyment. That is all it should be about at this age.

"It can be a long hard road sometimes in football and it is all about making sure while these boys are here at West Ham, they are given the best opportunities to grow as a footballer and improve and learn. But with no pressure, just go out there and play and be proud of all what they achieve."

For both Potts and Lee, it brought back memories of when they first joined the club as young boys. Both are established in West Ham's Development Squad after coming through the club's well-known Academy and both have made their first-team debuts.

Potts, who was given his first professional contract and a first-team debut in the same week in 2011, said: "It is a special time and I do remember coming into the Club really young and just being really excited about it all. But it was all about going out there and enjoying playing football and I hope that these boys really just enjoy coming to the training sessions and get to love their football even more.

"It is also a proud time for their families, like it was for mine. The time that is spent by our families ferrying us around to get to training and matches is really important and I am sure that these boys will have the same support."

And for Lee, who got to make his senior debut in an FA Cup third round match against Manchester United at Old Trafford, added: "It is a great time for them and not only will they be encouraged to go out there and enjoy playing, they will also make new friends and like myself and Pottsy, friends likely for a life-time.

"The coaches in the Academy will also make sure that these boys grow as people - it is a great environment to grow up in as you look to improve and learn more about playing football."

During the special evening, the boys and their families heard from Allardyce and Carr about what is expected of them as part of the Academy but with the emphasis on enjoyment.

Academy director Carr has overseen youngsters at this level join the club for the past 40 years and he said it never ceases to be a proud moment.

"It is exciting to see these lads training and coming into and completely love playing the game. At this level, as the manager says there is no pressure, but we are committed to ensuring we can give them every opportunity to hone what they have and give them as much back as we can."

Danny Searle, Foundation Phase Lead Coach at the Academy said: "I would like to congratulate the players on signing their first Academy forms for West Ham United.

"I would like to say a big thank you to manager Sam Allardyce, Dan Potts, Elliot Lee and Tony Carr for attending the event and showing their support. They contributed to what was an amazing evening for these young players and their families. I would also like to thank all our other club staff who were all involved in the evening and also work hard with our youngsters at our Academy."