SHOULD City end a 12-year exile and return to the Championship, there will be a huge nod of appreciation in the direction of West Ham.

The current play-off push has been built around an “all-in-it together” spirit engendered by Phil Parkinson. There are no star names single-handedly propelling the club forward.

But that’s not to say there is no stand-out quality within the ranks – and you need look no further than two of the youngest.

Reece Burke has been a revelation since landing on the Valley Parade doorstep in the wake of a chastening opening fortnight of the season.

Josh Cullen arrived in February but already looks a class fixture in the engine room. “An old head on very young shoulders” as Parkinson describes him.

Both 19-year-olds look to have a bright future in the game.

Their Premier League parent club think so – and they appreciate the role that City have played in bringing the two of them on.

Packing them off to Yorkshire was not a case of “out of sight, out of mind”; far from it. West Ham watch the two youngsters just as meticulously as if they were still under their wing at the club’s Chadwell Heath training base.

Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph & Argus, academy manager Terry Westley revealed how the Hammers keep close tabs on their progress.

“With any of our players who go out on loan there has to be a plan,” he said. “We don’t just send them out and hope for the best.

“People watch them, we get reports on the training and what fitness work they are doing, we check their interviews with the press. It’s a complete overhaul of the player.

“We also look at their behaviour off the pitch and how they do socially looking after themselves being away from their parents and girlfriends.

“It’s the whole holistic experience, part of that growing up.

“That’s part and parcel of the project to send them out and you see the difference.

“Reece comes back down here when they have a day off or like when he was injured with his arm. You notice he’s really grown up in his stature and confidence.

“He knows he is going to be a professional footballer. The real question is at what level?”

Westley revealed West Ham also vet potential destinations carefully. They have to be the proper fit.

He has known Parkinson a long time and was confident that City would offer the perfect education into “real” football.

“We felt Bradford were the right club with the right manager. He’s got good credentials.

“I know Phil from way back in his Colchester days. I’m originally from Ipswich.

“We’ve a good relationship and I know he looks after players properly.

“We sent them to Bradford because we felt it was a good team who would push for promotion and that’s been the case.

“Both of those players can play in the Championship minimum and this was their first taste of going out to play league football at a very young age.

“We are very keen on making sure the right players go to the right clubs and that relationship has worked this year.”

Few will argue with Westley’s view that Burke has been “one of the best” centre halves in the division. The defender is attracting plenty of interest.

The born-and-bred West Ham fan may have a tough decision to make in the summer but Westley regards him very much as one of their own.

He said: “We absolutely see him as a West Ham player and a potential first-teamer. I think he has got a shot.

“He has combined being up against seasoned pros for Bradford with playing for England under-20s and can’t be far off the 21s. Let’s see if he can break into it at West Ham.

“A lot of it is mentality. They are not spoiled, they work hard every time they step on the pitch. That’s a big credit to the pair of them.

“They want to get promotion, both want to win and will give everything to achieve that.”

Cullen made his senior debut at Anfield in August but West Ham boss Slaven Bilic felt he needed games under his belt during the second half of the season. Westley revealed that Parkinson agreed to take him blind.

“Phil hadn’t seen him play,” he added, “but I told him to take Josh before a Championship club did.

“After his first game for Bradford, Phil rang me raving about him and said he looks like he’s been playing for months.

“I wasn’t surprised because he’s a terrific character who won’t accept second best.

“We lost 4-3 in an under-21 game at Blackburn after we were 3-1 up at half-time. After the game, Josh took the team talk because he was so annoyed – that just shows he’s a winner.”

The most likely scenario for next season is to loan them both back out in the Championship. Promotion could well give City first dibs.

West Ham would have no qualms about pushing other young starlets in City’s direction and talks have already taken place.

Valley Parade chief scout Tim Breacker, a former Hammers defender, liaises closely with their academy head of recruitment Dave Hunt.

With the abolition of the short-term loan system, there will have to be a different approach for Football League clubs. They can’t afford to dither.

“Watch this space,” said Westley. "It’s going to be an interesting dilemma for clubs in the Football League.

“Before they could take someone and if it didn’t work, could send them back early. You can’t do that now because each loan will run from window to window.

“That’s why clubs are contacting us now about both of those two as well as (Martin) Samuelson at Peterborough and (Lewis) Page, who has done well at Cambridge.

“They’ll all start pre-season with the first team, go on their trip then we’ll make the decision which ones should go out straight away and who should stay with us until the second half of the season.

“We’ve had a conversation already with Bradford as we know it’s worked. It’s a club we will definitely deal with again in the future.”