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Hayward: At Their Best, Our Under-21s Can Beat West Ham

2 December 2015

Grecians academy boss looks ahead to Under-21 Premier League Cup tie

EXETER CITY's Under-21s meet West Ham United in an eagerly anticipated encounter on Wednesday evening as the Round of 32 of the Under-21 Premier League Cup heads to St James Park.

The Grecians, who have already seen off Southend United and Peterborough United in the competition, meet the Premier League Hammers at St James Park, with a kick-off time of 7pm on the 2nd December.

Entry for this one is £8 for adults, £4 for Over-62s and £2 for Under-18s/Students.

Academy manager Simon Hayward talked recently of just what a huge showcase the match will be for his highly-thought-of young City stars.

"I think that one of the key things about this club is that the youngsters here are also a key part of the first-team," Simon said. "The focus is always on the first-team, who had great wins at Plymouth and Mansfield last week before taking a point against Bristol Rovers on Saturday. Back in on the training ground today, though, the focus has now moved to West Ham.

"With West Ham, we're talking an established Premier League club - I can't remember the last time that they were out of the division. They are a Category One academy programme, but that shouldn't be something for us to fear, given our performances against Southampton, Palace and Blackburn two years back. They'll certainly provide a different challenge to us than what we faced in the previous rounds - Southend and Peterborough are Category Three academies, like ourselves.

"They are a club that doesn't compare financially to ours, and they have a population of eight million people in London to take players from, whereas we have closer to 100,000. Still, I'm sure that they would recruit nationally and across the world too, so that will bring a different challenge. I'm sure that they'll have some very physically-gifted players, and also some very technically-gifted players, but if our boys are on it, they'll be good enough to compete, I'm sure.

"They have a great pedigree at West Ham for bringing through top players - under Tony Carr they had the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, and now Terry Westley has since taken over. I'm sure Tony's influence will still be felt on that academy, with his fingerprints likely to hang around for twenty to thirty years to come. He oversaw a platter of top-quality Premier League stars, and now I'm sure that Terry will be looking for continuity - that's something which is absolutely imperative at youth level. Credit to West Ham for doing such a good job over such a long period of time.

"We showed two years ago that we can beat top sides, and some were even quite comfortable. We've started to develop a very good track record, and fingers-crossed we can keep that going. We have to emulate the Southamptons and West Hams of this world. We have some very good young players, and sometimes the fact that they are so close to the first-team at a club the size of ours can give them a different edge, not just to their game but also to their personality. If we can be at our best, I think that we'll have a very good chance of winning on Wednesday."

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