Carr's pride

  • by Graeme Howlett
  • Monday, 14th June 2004

Hammers coach Tony Carr has spoken of his pride at watching so many of his former charges prepare to line up for England in this summer's European Championship.

Carr - one of West Ham's (if not the only) 'best kept secrets', and a youth coach since the early 1970's - has been steadily churning out quality youth players at Chadwell Heath since the early 1980's.

And talking in today's Telegraph, Carr told of his pride at watching so many of the players he has nurtured in recent years make the grade at international level - despite the fact that NONE remain at West Ham.

"For a club like ours, I think we can feel rightly proud that we've produced so many England players over the years," he said. "It's fantastic that such a large number of Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad have a West Ham connection.

"When I watched Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick all walk out of the ground to join their first England camps, I felt immensely proud for them as people.

"With Jermain Defoe and Glen Johnson it was slightly different because they'd moved on to Tottenham and Chelsea by the time they won their caps, so I had to congratulate them by phone. Everyone at the club knew they were all very special young players, but we were obviously biased so it's nice when the
England coach shares your opinion."

Carr - who, despite being a lifelong Hammers fan failed to make the grade as a player - "I just didn't have what it takes to be a West Ham player, it's as simple as that," he says - also sung the praises of fellow development officer Jimmy Hampson for his part in the Chadwell Heath success story.

"No way is it all down to me," he said. "It's very difficult to say why we've been so successful in youth terms; I suppose it's down to a number of factors but, most importantly, our recruitment area of east London and Essex is really fertile.

"Also, Upton Park was known as `the academy of football' right back to the days of Bobby Moore - and long before academies became commonplace - so
youngsters know they'll be given an opportunity, no matter what age they are.

"The key is finding the talent - and we have an outstanding recruitment officer in Jimmy Hampson - then, having found them, nurturing them and giving them the chance when the time is right.

"You can get mugged with young players - some just don't develop for whatever reason - but you can usually tell when a lad has that something out of the ordinary. Tony Cottee and Jermain Defoe were scoring goals as 10-year-olds, while Rio Ferdinand was a fantastic athlete in the centre of midfield. We only converted him to centre-back when he became a full-time professional.

"That's the really exciting thing about this job, that you start out every new season in the hope of uncovering a little nugget. There's another Frank
Lampard out there somewhere and our task is to find him, teach him to take his first steps in football, then sit back and watch him run."

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