Hammers enjoy PL Kicks Cup glory

An Under-16 West Ham United Community Sports Trust side scooped the 2014 Premier League Kicks Cup on home turf at the weekend.

With the famous Hackney Marshes playing host to this year's tournament, some 47 clubs and 600 youngsters descended on east London to battle it out.

Ironically, this was the first time that all 47 clubs with Kicks programmes had been able to participate - bringing all four corners of the country together - and yet it was the local lads who reigned supreme.

Despite slipping to a 1-0 defeat by Coventry City in their opening encounter, the Hammers came roaring back to top the group and then brush aside Blackburn Rovers 2-0 to lift the silverware.

Hammers youngster Sam Smith netted both the goals in the final, victory which earns the boys in Claret and Blue the right to defend their Christmas Truce title in Ypres, Belgium, come December.

The two teams ahead of Saturday's keenly-contested final

Smith was part of the triumphant party on the continent last year and revelled in Saturday's victory so close to the Hammers' future Stratford home.

"It feels amazing to win and I can't wait to go back to Ypres and win again," Smith said. "We started the day slowly but didn't deserve to lose against Newcastle. To win it here, so close to the Olympic Stadium makes it all the more special!"

As for the girls' U18s tournament, West Ham's representatives went close too, losing out to eventual winners Millwall in the last four. The young Lions would go on to down their Newcastle counterparts in the final.

Former Arsenal, Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba was guest of honour on the day and, having handed the victors the trophy, spoke of his admiration for the event.

"It's great to see so many kids playing, enjoying the game, coming from all parts of the country and coming together to experience different people and different cultures," said Muamba.

"I can see how Premier League Kicks can work so well in keeping people on the right path, away from trouble. Football can teach you respect and you learn to appreciate other people's cultures, backgrounds and learn how to work together with such people to become successful as a team.

"That's what I definitely learnt from my football experience; you have people in the dressing room all from different backgrounds and different beliefs, but you have to work together as a team if you want to be a success. Also, the people here will see other teams from different places and see how they approach the game and learn from that."