Football: Harry happy to have team of young Hammers

West Ham United 6 Barnsley 0
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The Independent Online
Andrew Martin

West Ham United 6

Barnsley 0

For a man who had just seen his side humble the opposition 6-0, he seemed a little downbeat, but there was a tension in Harry Redknapp's words. "Most of them are under 24," said the West Ham manager, "and that's important to me. I like working with a younger team.

"I'm fed up with having older players; we've got kids who want to listen, learn and run till they drop for West Ham. And if they continue to do that, the club can only go one way - and that's up."

West Ham stood a proud seventh in the Premiership after Saturday's victory at Upton Park. Compared with the Hammers' position after 21 games last season - fourth from bottom - Redknapp has reason enough for a measure of satisfaction.

He has rebuilt a team with a core of young, hungry and largely British players. West Ham's bitter flirtation with the cheap, and invariably ageing, foreign import has clearly left a deep impression on him. Of Saturday's team, only three - John Moncur, Steve Potts and Stan Lazaridis - remain from last season's strugglers.

The Hammers revival stems largely from their ability to convert chances that in seasons past went begging. Fundamental to that is the dead-eye finishing of John Hartson, aged 22, whose 19th goal of the season, a blistering shot from the edge of the area, was West Ham's fifth on the day.

Earlier, Hartson created the opening for Samassi Abou (20 years of age) to toe home his first Premiership goal in the 31st minute. West Ham had stamped their authority on the game in the fifth minute when Frank Lampard (19), unchallenged at the near post, headed home a cross from David Unsworth (24).

Abou's second, created by Hartson in the 52nd minute, sent the Upton Park crowd into its latest mantra: "Abou, Abou" bellowed by 20,000 souls sounds like a jeer but it is fast becoming a chant of joy in east London.

His deft flick sent a rampaging Moncur (31) in to blast home the fourth five minutes later while Lazaridis (25) illustrated his abundant talent with a fine strike in the game's closing minute, the Welshman again the creator.

In defence, Rio Ferdinand (19) and Ian Pearce (23) stood firm alongside Unsworth against the valiant industry of Ashley Ward while Eyal Berkovitch (25) was invention personified as West Ham's midfield fulcrum.

Such an embarrassment of young riches must be hard to bear for Barnsley's Danny Wilson. "The manner in which we lost was embarrassing," he said. "We did not have any fight or spirit which have been our trademarks in recent weeks."

How he must envy Redknapp's big-hearted young bloods.

Goals: Lampard (5) 1-0; Abou (31) 2-0; Abou (52) 3-0; Moncur (57) 4-0; Hartson (67) 5-0; Lazaridis (90) 6-0.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Forrest; Unsworth, Ferdinand, Pearce; Lazaridis, Impey (Moncur, 31), Lampard, Berkovitch (Alves, 77), Potts; Hartson, Abou. Substitutes not used: Rowland, Bishop, Lama (gk).

Barnsley (4-4-2): Watson; Morgan, Eaden, Barnard; Appleby (Markstedt, 31), Sheridan, Redfearn, Tinkler, Krizan (Marcelle, 31); Ward, Hristov (Hendrie, 73). Substitutes not used: Liddell, Bosancic.

Referee: N S Barry (Scunthorpe) .

Bookings: West Ham: Moncur. Barnsley: Barnard.

Man of the Match: Abou.

Attendance: 23,714.