Nathan Bishop received an early Christmas present when he made his first team debut for Southend against Scunthorpe United in December.
The 18-year-old - who has tasted England recognition on two occasions having trained with England in June and then again a few weeks ago - came on for the injured Mark Oxley at half time between the sticks.
It’s been a rapid rise for Bishop having played outfield growing up before being transformed into a goalkeeper by a Blues coach who spotted him playing for Kinsgtonian.
Having had a few weeks for his debut appearance to sink in, the shot-stopper says it’s given him the hunger for more, but added there’s also plenty of learning for him to do behind number one Mark Oxley.
“I couldn’t sleep the night of the game and then a couple of days after it still felt really fresh and new,” said Bishop. “People were asking questions and it was really exciting still, but now it’s back to business and I just want to get back on it and playing again.
“Ox [Mark Oxley] is having a great season and has been fantastic in training and Ted [Smith] is on his way back now, but knowing I’ve got them to chase and to work hard with, and they’re great role models, it pushes me to do more and makes me want really it.
“Even playing U23 football, I just want to play football and get out there and show everyone what I can do.
“I can learn from Ox, get bigger and stronger and hopefully get to his level in the next few years. I’m more than happy to wait and be patient for it because it’s a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, to play professional football.
“Working in the gym and getting physically better and training constantly, working on my technique and getting my game together to go and play the pro game is the most important thing at the moment.”
Bishop probably learnt a lot about technique when playing as a centre back for Kingstonian before being spotted as a potential goalkeeper.
So far this season the youngster has been involved in the squad ever since the reverse of today’s fixture; a 4-2 win over the Cod Army in September.
And just the experience of being involved in matchday squads has taught him a lot.
“Being able to watch the games from the bench and seeing how the other guys are in the changing room, how they manage one another is really important,” Bishop added.
“I watch Ox and how he is with other players and how he treats them, how he is when the game situation changes. In my own game I think that’s something I’ve begun to add. How I talk to my players, the demands I want and things I expect from my players is something I really want to take into the youth team and the U23s.”
The feel-good factor of making his debut only added to his recent exploits with the Three Lions, and Bishop is delighted to be on the radar of the national coaches.
“In June I went as a backup ‘keeper and trained throughout the week in preparation for the Toulon tour. A few weeks ago I was at a camp with 16 other goalkeepers from different age groups.
“It gives you confidence. It’s an amazing thing, just to be training for your country and in your country’s badge. It’s great to be able it bring back to Southend because it gives you a boost in your game that you’re doing something right.”
It’s a close-knit bunch that the goalkeepers work in, alongside their coach, Lee Harrison.
And Bishop is firm in his belief that Southend is the right place for his development.
“The reason for having a good group of younger keepers is having the role models like Ox and Ted. They joke about with us, they check on us, they’re with us around the training ground and they just work hard.
“They show us what the expectation should be every training session.
“Lee is constantly talking to me, Harry [Seaden] and Josh [Bexon] about staying around the first team, being on top of it and making sure we’re in the gym.
“This is the right place for me. We’ve got a great Manager who trusts us, just like Lee, so we’ve got a good platform to help us go on.”