IRISH prospect Josh Cullen hopes that his experience of training with the first team at West Ham in pre-season can help him make the step-up in the coming season.
Cullen (right), 19, is rated as one of the best young prospects in the Hammers academy, and he was promoted to the first team panel by Sam Allardyce last season, as he was an unused sub for a number of Premier League games.
With a busy season in prospect - West Ham are in Europa League action this Thursday - youngsters like Cullen could get a chance under new boss Slaven Bilic, and the Irish U19 cap is keen to build on the work in did in the side's pre-season training camp in Cork.
"We've been playing with first team players day in, day out in training and that's great. That brings you on as a player and can only help with your development," says Culen, who was born in London but qualifies for Ireland through the parentage rule.
"I was pleased with the progress I made last season. Getting on the bench at nice Premier League stadiums was a good experience and now it's time to kick-on.
"I have to make sure I don't take my foot off the pedal, keep going and take that next step to getting on the pitch."
And he hopes that his international experience with the Irish U19s can help him if he gets a nod in the Europa League ties, West Ham up against Andorran side Lusitans.
"Playing international football is always a great experience. We've had Elite Rounds in Germany and that stands you in good stead for something like the Europa League this year. If I get the nod in that, I've played against European opposition before so you sort of know what to expect."
Meanwhile, Ireland U19 cap Eric Grimes has been given a boost as he's been awarded a new one-year deal by Leeds United. The Cork native is highly-rated by Leeds and now has the security of a contract extension.
But former youth cap international Kieran Sadlier is looking for a new club after he was released by St Mirren. He joined the SPL side from West Ham in January and gained first team experience with the saints but the club have now opted not to renew his contract.