From the garden to Wembley
The main reason I first got into football was my dad, because he was the first one who gave me a ball and so it started there in the back garden or he would take me to the park.
So when I think back, those are my first memories of football really, just going to the park with my dad or playing in the garden and driving my mum crazy if we ever smashed a window or something.
As I got a little bit older, if I wanted to do something else or wanted a treat, he’d be like: ‘you’ve got to do this amount of keepy-ups’ or something like that to give me something to aim for because he knew that I wouldn’t stop trying until I did it.
My dad was a massive football fan, a Chelsea fan who played football himself, so he would always take me along to his games because he was playing in Sunday league. I used to love going along to watch him, so he was a big influence for me and we always used to go to games together and watch Chelsea.
My first team was Molesey Community Church when I was really young and had just started playing. It was a thing people did on a Sunday, loads of kids came and everyone just played games against each other and that’s when I first started playing organised football.
I had a few local teams in Surrey after that, Hersham FC, Walton & Hersham and eventually Molesey Juniors, where we had a really strong team and were winning everything at the time.
There were a couple of lads who did well from that team, like Cameron McGeehan who plays out in Belgium now but was at Fulham and Chelsea as a youngster, and I still keep in touch with a couple of the other lads too.
School was Rydens in Hersham, where I had loads of teachers that I loved and really got on with. They cared about me being good at school as well as the football which was a really good thing.
I just kept on playing and playing. Fulham had a training camp which I was involved with, but they thought I was too small and there was interest from Arsenal and Chelsea too but nothing came of it, so I just carried on playing for my team and school.
But it was when I was at a tournament that I was spotted by a scout from Southampton and I went for a trial down there and that was when it started to ramp up.
After the first session that I had with them, when I was on my way back home, my mum got a phone call in the car saying that they wanted to offer me a contract and I remember how proud they were.
I still remember those moments, I was eight then, but I just worked my way up.
I had to go down to Southampton maybe twice a week for training, so it must have been a real struggle for my parents, who took it in turns to take me down.
They’ve got two more kids as well, so it was obviously very tough on them, to be taking me up and down the M3 a couple of times a week just for training.
It meant getting back at midnight sometimes, but thankfully for them, I’m in this position now and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their dedication.
It wasn’t all straightforward though, I struggled at times. When I went up to the U15s, I wasn’t getting games while all my teammates were playing, so I was thinking about maybe leaving at one stage.
But then one training session changed the whole thing and I started playing again and it really went quickly from there. I think it was a year and a half later that I was in the first team.
I can still remember the first time I was called up for England too and it was for the U16s, a game with Scotland in the Victory Shield.
It was on Sky, I was still at school at the time, so it was a big thing and I can remember the game and getting cramp after 50 minutes!
It was really weird, because being at Southampton, I didn’t really expect that there would be scouts coming to watch me from England.
You don’t realise at the time how big an achievement that is, especially at that age, until you’re there and realise you’re seen as being in the top 20 players in your country for your age.
It was something special and really big, not just for me, but for the school because it was quite a weird thing to happen for them, with me getting permission to take time off school to go to something like that.
Your life really changes, but everyone was really good with me not just because of the football but because they cared about improving their students as people and I still say that I owe everyone who was involved from school and my grassroots clubs everything for where I am now.