In the latest part of our series looking at the upbringing of our Academy youngsters, goalkeeper Ethan Wady talks about his American childhood and passion for the game
What was life like in America, did you like it?
Although I was born in San Jose, I moved to North Carolina before I was one, so that’s the place I remember most. I think growing up in North Carolina was the perfect childhood. Even though I lived in a smaller town I still had good clubs around me and I was still able to play football. I was able to make a lot of really close friends and got to have the all-American experience at school. The year before I moved, the biggest thing to do on a Friday night was go to the local high school and watch the American Football game for 'Friday night lights'. I think it’s the little things like that which I remember the most fondly.
What’s been the biggest change since moving to England?
Probably the largest difference was the football culture that’s in England. In England, football is all encompassing. You see it on TV, in the streets, on ads, in newspapers and in everyday chat. It’s literally everywhere. While it’s certainly on the rise in the US, I was definitely taken aback by how intense the passion for football is in this country.
What do you miss the most about home?
Easily my friends. The hardest thing about moving isn’t the change in scenery or location, but the people you have to leave behind. You never really lose the close friendships you have, but it definitely is a challenge trying to manage the different time zones and just the different experiences you get exposed to when living in Europe. That said, I do really miss my Cookout hamburgers and Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches!
Earliest memory of playing with a football?
My earliest memory of playing football was probably from when I was three or four. There used to be a place close to me called ‘The Factory’ which was an old industrial building that was renovated to become a shopping and sports centre. They had an indoor turf pitch and ran a programme called Little Kickers. It was a long time ago, but I remember really enjoying the feel of being on the pitch and playing the game. I ended up meeting one of my best friends there and I’ve been in love with the game ever since.
Earliest memory of watching football?
I think my earliest memory of seeing a football game was watching the end of the 2006 World Cup final. I remember seeing the Italian team celebrating. I don’t know if I even understood what I was watching at that point, but I still enjoyed seeing the ecstasy of winning a football match.
Where were you playing your football before Chelsea?
Before coming to Chelsea I played for a club called North Carolina FC. I have loads of great memories with that club - from winning tournaments to spending hours on end on the training pitches. From every turf burn to every penalty save, I can’t be more grateful for the opportunities and memories I had when playing for them.
Outside of the organised scene, I played loads of pickup (American street game) with my friends. Some nights we’d play on the streets well into the dark of the night, under nothing but a street lamp. I think the amount of touches I had there and the enjoyment I got from it has really benefited me in the long run. It’s really helped grow my love for the game.
Who did you look up to when you were younger?
When I was younger I always would look up to Petr Cech. As a young goalkeeper I always wanted to try and learn from the professionals and I don’t think there were many better than him.
Which footballing memory of yours sticks in your mind?
Ironic as it may be given I’m a keeper, one of the memories that always sticks in my mind is scoring a goal when I was very little. I remember one time I scored and ran back to the halfway line specifically to do a 'pull out the rope' celebration. Something about being goofy when playing with friends just always sticks in my mind for me.
- The Under-18s are in league action this afternoon as Ed Brand takes his unbeaten team to Belvoir Drive to take on sixth-placed Leicester City.