You can see the Holmesdale floodlights from my mum and dad’s bedroom just off Davidson Road, where I grew up. My dad and grandad are big Palace fans, while my uncle was also a passionate supporter. My great uncle, John McGregor, played for the club in the 1930s, and with both sides of the family growing up around Thornton Heath, Palace has always been in the blood.
So it was a massive honour to get into the Academy aged nine.
When I first trialed with Palace I didn't want to leave my friends from Sunday league, so I held myself back and ended up not signing. But fortunately I got a second chance a few months later, and this time realised the size of the opportunity.
At that age I just loved football and would play at any opportunity: the street, garden, mum and dad’s front room; you name it. I wanted to succeed and be that player on TV, playing in front of thousands. At that age you think football is all glamour because you see only the best side - the lifestyle, the fame - and it’s so appealing, especially for a young player.
The first thing I’d tell my younger self starting in the academy now is: ‘Yes, you’re in an Academy fighting for a professional contract, playing the best of the best, but enjoy every minute. As you progress through the age groups, the pressures to win and perform intensify. By the time you’re in men’s football you’ll have to perform to win, with people’s jobs ultimately on the line. The enjoyment you have now will start to give way to those pressures, so just enjoy those early years.’