For any youngster who plays football, signing for a professional contract for a Premier League club is a dream come true.
And that dream has come true for an 18-year-old from Burgess Hill.
Will Wood, who grew up in Burgess Hill, was joined by his family as he signed a three-year professional contract at Southampton on Tuesday at St Mary’s - a club he has been with since he was 11. And this came less than 24 hours after helping the club win the Under-21 Premier League Cup.
Wood, who went to Oakmeeds Community College, told the Mid Sussex Times: “It’s amazing to get a year contract with the club after being there since 11 years old and dreaming as a kid that one day this would happen.”
Southampton have an incredible record of bringing through talent with the likes of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw all representing England and Will is looking to follow all the players who have gone through the Academy and made it into the first team.
“I played alongside some first team regulars on Monday night for the U21’s in the Barclays Premier League Cup which we won 2-1 against Blackburn Rovers. It was an amazing achievement for the Club and in front of a packed St Marys Stadium.
“My ultimate dream is to make it into the first team, I’ve already done some training with them and who knows, get a look in at England youth.”
And Will was quick to praise his family for helping him achieve his dream.
He said: “My family have supported me all the way over the last few years, doing all the travelling to get me to training, sometimes doing the journey to Southampton four times a week. It’s been tough for everyone so it’s nice to finally achieve my dream.
Will, who’s footballing hero was another Saints youth player - Gareth Bale, also singled out an old coach from his home town. He said: “My old Southdown Rovers manager who I played for as a young boy was a big influence in my early development. We used to win every game!”
Making a career out of football is a tough ask but Will had this advice for any youngster trying to make it as a professional, “Any youngster looking to make a career in football needs to work hard and never give up. No matter how tough it got I stayed focused and started getting noticed by the big clubs.
“Football is so important to a youngster’s development, as is all sport. It gives discipline, fitness and social development. I’ve got so many good mates through my football.”
My ultimate dream is to make it into the first team, I’ve already done some training with them and who knows, get a look in at England youth.Will Wood