West Ham youngster Reece Burke discusses breakthrough season

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The 18-year-old defender could be set for a big campaign this year after starting the last five matches of the 2014-15 season.

Promising West Ham defender Reece Burke has been discussing his emergence as a first team player at Upton Park with the Premier League website, ahead of the Hammers' opening game of the new season in the Europa League qualifiers.

Burke has only been capped up to England Under-19 level, but he was a consistent figure in the West Ham starting lineup towards the end of last season, and may well be further involved now Slaven Bilic is in charge.

The 18-year-old, who was on the bench for the first three games of the campaign, discussed the moment he was named among the substitutes for last season's opener against Tottenham.

"Being involved with the first team, even on the bench or travelling up with them, was a great experience," Burke said. "You get the chance to watch the game live and see the opposition at close quarters. You gain a lot just from watching. That I think was better for me rather than being thrown in at the deep end.

"It helped me a lot speaking to senior players. That’s especially true of a club like West Ham, where they have a few local boys like me and it was good to learn from them. It leads you down the right path."

And in what should be encouraging news for West Ham fans, Burke isn't going to rest on his handful of appearances thinking he has made it, he is determined to become a better player.

"I know I’ve not made it: I’ve been in five Premier League matches and done alright," he added. "I wouldn’t say I couldn’t play in the Premier League, I know I can. But I believe there is more to developing myself to play week in week out in the Premier League."

Is Burke set to be the next England star to come out of West Ham

There is a sense of excitement at West Ham right now, as Slaven Bilic's arrival may coincidently signify the beginning of a new generation of exciting young Hammers coming through.

And Burke may merely be the first to emerge, with Reece Oxford and Lewis Page also taking part in West Ham's tie with Lusitans this week.

When Bilic was last at the club there were several outstanding young English footballers in the academy or around the first team at the Boleyn Ground, with Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick all going on major successes in their careers.

If West Ham have anything like that group, but with an Olympic Stadium to satisfy them, these could be exciting times in East London.

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