West Ham's relegation from the Barclays Premier League will afford the club the opportunity to provide youngsters with first-team experience that, perhaps, they would not have gained in the top-flight.

Academy products James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Junior Stanislas have already established themselves in the senior side, while next year could prove to be a breakthrough season for the likes of Jordan Spence and Dylan Tombides.

One player who will have been hardened by the drop into the Npower Championship is 21-year-old Freddie Sears, who could find himself with a big part to play when the new campaign begins.

The Hornchurch-born forward burst onto the scene in 2008 when he scored the winner against Blackburn within minutes of making his Hammers debut, which led some romanticists to suggest the new Tony Cottee was born.

However, the goals soon dried up for the England under 21 international, as he failed to find the net during loan spells with Crystal Palace, Coventry and Scunthorpe.

But Sears has put himself back on the map at Upton Park after a number of eye-catching displays on the right of midfield - not his regular position - with the most notable performance coming at Stamford Bridge, where he provided a stern test for Ashely Cole.

There are high hopes once more for Sears and, after being named the Young Hammer of the Year, the diminutive youngster will be looking to make an impact under Sam Allardyce.




 

Sears is just the sort of player the Irons faithful adore - a local lad who supports the club and is honoured to wear the shirt. And he feels privileged to represent the famous east London side.

"You take the support for granted sometimes. The fans are brilliant at home and away games. At Wigan, I got goose bumps because they were brilliant when we were 2-0 up and even when we went down at the end," said Sears.

"There are going to be disappointed people but if the fans stick with us and we try to repay them, then it can only result in good things.

"I think it's the club in general and the fan base that is so special. From the backroom staff to the players, everyone is committed to doing their best for the club. Just pulling on the West Ham shirt inspires me and makes me want to do well.

"When you see the boys who have come through the Academy like me, it means even more to us and we go out and give it 110 per cent every time. It is even more special for us because we know how hard we have had to work to get into the first-team squad and we want to stay there."

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Freddie Sears
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Freddie Sears
West Ham United