West Ham have the perfect blend of youth and experience to secure an instant return to the Barclays Premier League through the npower Championship play-offs, according to assistant manager Neil McDonald.
The Hammers enjoyed the perfect start to their play-off campaign, winning 2-0 at Cardiff in the first leg of the semi-final. Two Jack Collison goals gave the London outfit a huge advantage going into the return fixture at Upton Park on Monday, as West Ham bossed the majority of the clash at the Cardiff City Stadium.
McDonald believes combining the likes of Collison and Mark Noble, products of the Hammers' youth system, with experienced professionals like Kevin Nolan and Robert Green gives his team the edge in their promotion bid. He said: "It's good to have that balance."
He continued: "We've got a lot of experience in the team, we've got a lot of players who have come through the ranks as well so it's just trying to find that mixture in the dynamics between the squad. I think we've got that perfect mixture at the moment."
Despite taking such a commanding lead into the second meeting between the teams, McDonald is wary that the job is not yet done. Cardiff manager Malky Mackay stressed after the game on Thursday that West Ham's 2-0 lead could be "dangerous" for his opponents, hinting that the Hammers may rest on their laurels at Upton Park in three days' time.
But McDonald insisted complacency will not be allowed anywhere near the West Ham dressing room prior to the second leg.
"We've kept a clean sheet, which is an extra bonus, and we've scored two really, really good goals," he said. "We're happy with the first game but we've still got a game or two to come and it will still be very, very difficult."
Mackay hopes his young and ambitious squad have it in them to overturn the deficit at Upton Park, but he accepted it will be a tough challenge against a Hammers side brimming with talent and experience.
"You're playing against a team and a squad of 35-odd professionals who have a wealth and depth of experience," he said.
"That's why we knew we had a big task ahead of us with the team we were going to play. They've played 10 games less than us this season and they've got a huge squad so we knew the experience was against us."