In the latest part of our series looking at the upbringing of our Academy youngsters, midfielder Joe Haigh talks about his idols, watching the opening game at the new Wembley and how his scholarship is just the start for his career.
What’s your earliest memory of playing football?
As soon as I knew how to walk everything was about football for me. Me, my brother and my dad would play in the garden non-stop together for hours. However, from a very young age I had a real competitive edge and would never want my dad or brother to beat me!
I joined my local club, Ashtead, at seven with all my mates from my primary school and I absolutely loved it. Since joining Ashtead, I have never looked back.
You can play in a few positions now but did you play in any other positions when younger?
When I started playing football centre-midfield was always the position I wanted to play, and I played there for majority of the time when I was younger. However, I did get moved around the pitch to different positions as I am quite a versatile player and it helped with my development. To be honest, I didn’t really mind where I played as long as I was playing football. Now I am more of an attacking player and mainly play in the attacking midfield role or out on the wing. But I don’t really have a favourite position.
Did you have any idols as a youngster?
When I was a young boy, I looked up to Steven Gerrard as he was a leader and such a good player and I wanted to base my game around him. As I’ve grown older I still try and implement some of Steven Gerrard’s game into mine but I mainly idolise Lionel Messi now. The way he glides past defenders with ease and can either score or assist is just astonishing and I want add as much of his game into mine as possible.
In addition to that I really look up to my grandad, as he has been through my footballing journey with me coming to the majority of my games across Europe and England so I really want to make him proud.
Did you play any other sports as a youngster?
From a very young age, my dad encouraged me to play all sports. I enjoy all sports and I am very grateful that I mixed other sports with my football as I think it has benefited me very well. I used to play cricket for my local club and I was a decent batsman and bowler. I even went on a tour to Barbados when I was younger! I still play cricket and other sports for fun, however apart from football my favourite sport right now is table-tennis.
What’s your earliest memory of watching football?
The first game that I went to was the opening of the new Wembley stadium, where England under-21s played Italy. After going to that game, I have felt so determined to one day play on that pitch.
Also, another memory was the first World Cup that I properly watched, which was the 2010 World Cup. It was amazing watching my first World Cup unfold. Obviously England didn’t do great, but from 2010 it has been my dream to play in the World Cup and win it with England.
What one footballing memory sticks to mind?
I have had many amazing memories throughout my career so far from winning player of the tournaments, winning competitions with Chelsea and England but my biggest achievement is definitely signing my scholarship with Chelsea. This will forever be special to me as I worked so hard over the years, training every day, going through ups and downs to reach this point. However that is only the start for me and I have bigger and better targets that I want to achieve in my footballing career.