Stan’s the man for Gianfranco

WEST HAM youngster Junior Stanislas arrived on the Premier League stage with a bang on Saturday with a goal on his first start in claret and blue, but it was another top flight team who played a big part in his success, writes DAVE EVANS. Earlier in the s

WEST HAM youngster Junior Stanislas arrived on the Premier League stage with a bang on Saturday with a goal on his first start in claret and blue, but it was another top flight team who played a big part in his success, writes DAVE EVANS.

Earlier in the season, the 19-year-old was on loan at Southend United where he played two Carling Cup games against mighty Chelsea, and just last week it was the Blues who were the opposition when the winger grabbed a hat-trick.

It was that which prompted manager Gianfranco Zola to give Stanislas a starting place against Sunderland.

"I made my decision about him last week," revealed the boss. "We played a friendly reserve game against Chelsea and they had five senior players in their team. He played and he scored three goals, but it wasn't those goals it was his personality and the quality on the pitch that convinced me that he should play in this game."


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Zola may have made up his mind then, but he didn't tell Stanislas that he was playing until the day of the game.

"I found out about two hours before the kick-off," revealed the Academy boy, who quickly called up his mates to get them down to the game.

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It proved to be a dream come true for him and his mates.

"A goal, three points and a clean sheet is good," he said. "It was a great feeling when the ball hit the net and I've been dreaming about it for years now. To start in the Premier League and to score is amazing."

Amazing it was. As soon as the ball was in the net he sprinted over to the sidelines and spotted his mates in the crowd, saluting them as well as the rest of the supporters.

Zola is certainly not one to hold a young player back, but the winger's performance even shocked him on Saturday.

"James Tomkins has been playing for a while and has always been very good, so I had no problems with him, but Junior has been a surprise," admitted the Italian.

"I knew about his qualities, his technical skills, but I didn't know about his mental strength.

"He came on and he looked like he was a veteran, so that is a good point for him and a good point for me obviously."

Zola used the same 'veteran' line to describe Tomkins a couple of weeks ago, but it seems that the latest batch of Academy stars are showing the sort of maturity that will be invaluable.

Zola himself certainly plays a part in that as Stanislas confirmed: "The boss said clear your mind and go out and play your normal game," explained the south Londoner. "Steve Clarke and him have got the boys doing well and put a lot of confidence into the squad.

"Obviously it's a massive step from reserves and lower league football. It's a lot quicker and more physical, and it forces you to move the ball on quicker and keep on your toes, but the boys around me helped."

Zola was certainly impressed, but he knows how to keep the youngster's feet on the ground: "He is a good player," he said. "He has qualities and he also has mental strength, but now it is down to him.

"He has played just one game and he has to show composure, keep it on the carpet which is a very important thing, and if he does that, he has the qualities to become a very important player. He has to be very focused."

He certainly sounds like he is. Surely it was celebration time on Saturday night? Not a bit of it.

"I'll be in for Match of the Day tonight," he smiled wryly. "They won't let me enjoy it too much, trust me. I can celebrate maybe a bit later, but come Monday it's back to normal."

Stanislas still has a long way to go, but if this first start is anything to go by, as well as his attitude, then the club may well have unearthed another diamond.

It sounds like Zola is building his youngsters in his own image, and that can only be superb for West Ham United's long-term future.

Now, aren't Chelsea coming to Upton Park soon!

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