From the Academy

Hello everyone,

The U18s have made a good start to the season and go into this Saturday's fixture at Reading unbeaten in their opening five Barclays U18 Premier League matches. That record is all the more impressive when you consider that it has coincided with some younger players playing too.

It's a combination of getting results at U18 level but also having U16 players involved too. The U21s have also got U18s and U17s in their squads and I think that shows we're on the right track. That means we're ticking the right boxes in terms of being development coaches.

I'm delighted we're winning matches as that is good for confidence but also for individuals like schoolboys Vashon Neufville and Jahmal Hector-Ingram. If you then look at Reece Oxford, he's missed the U18s by going straight into the U21s, really. Steve Potts and Mark Phillips must be very pleased with the work they are doing.

Looking at the Southampton game, which we won 3-2 after coming back from two goals down - that shows great character, good temperament and they demonstrated the work the two coaches are doing. The players are on a roll at the moment, they're enjoying training and having to work hard to stay in the team.

The U18s have scored eleven goals in their opening five matches, with Jordan Brown scoring four and Jahmal getting his first at that level against Southampton.

The week before, Jahmal scored against Chelsea at U16 level and has been selected for England. We need to try and make room for these players. He has to be at his absolute maximum the whole time when he plays at U18 level. It's the same for the other schoolboys too - when they play U18 football they're being pushed. It's also important that when they do drop back down to their own age-group that they play properly. Playing an age lower helps give them more time on the ball and let them dominate a game.

With Jordan, he's doing very well in matches and training and I think he's close to the U21s.

At the other end of the pitch, the U21s tightened up defensively and were rewarded with a 1-1 draw at Fulham last time out.

It's a toss-up which way you want to go as an Academy. You can decide to play young players and play expansively or make sure you're tight at the back and make sure you defend properly. We played expansively in the first few games and created numerous chances against Tottenham, Manchester City and Southampton, but we didn't win any of those games.

What the Fulham game showed was that if you sit a little bit deeper and defend more than you express yourself, you can also get a good performance. We ground out a result and a good point. Now, we're looking for a combination and a balance of the two. I want to see players express themselves while also defending properly.

This weekend, the U18s travel to Reading, who also produce a lot of good players. Having worked with the Premier League in the last three years I'd say they have one of the better Academies, even though they're not on a massive budget. They rely a lot of home-grown players and work with the players right the way through.

They work hard and their desire as a group and staff is excellent. They produce good players and I think it will be a tough game.

Finally, you may have read in the Programme at the weekend about the partnership we have with Robert Clack School, which means we can educate and train the schoolboys full-time at Rush Green between the ages of 14-16.

The first two-year cycle ended in the summer and our schoolboys did well in their GSCE results, which was very pleasing.

The concept and the partnership West Ham have put in place is as good as anywhere in the country. The school is a hundred metres away from the training ground. The boys get educated at the Club, they stay and play football. The results show that their predicted grades have gone up. The concept is fantastic.

We want to make sure our elite schoolboy players are part of this process, being educated and training with us as they develop and, hopefully, become first-team players.

If the elite players are all living, studying and training within the Club, then this will increase the togetherness and they'll come through the system together. The young players will learn from the behaviour and the culture of the elite players.

We want to see scenarios where U21s are living with U13 and U14s at the Academy House, looking after them and talking about the game with them. That is the holistic approach we are after and, when it happens, I would hope our achievements in the classroom and on the pitch will improve still further.

Terry Westley