This week the EFL are celebrating 'Youth Development Week'.
And just last week 18-year-old Isaac Hutchinson became the second Academy prospect to sign a professional contract at Roots Hall in the space of two weeks.
We spoke to Hutchinson in Saturday's matchday programme about his progress at Southend, why he opted to join back in the summer and the experience of being involved in the first teamt to date.
Here's the interview in full...
Isaac Hutchinson expressed his delight at signing his first professional contract after he put pen to paper on a two-and-a-half year deal.
Following in the footsteps of Charlie Kelman to agree terms, the 18-year-old is one of many youngsters in and around the first-team at the moment that have stepped up from the Academy teams in the last two years.
Originally signing a one-year scholarship deal after a trial last year, the former Brighton & Hove Albion trainee since the age of 10 is an example of another way an Academy does its work, by recruiting players who have been released elsewhere and giving them a chance to develop.
The attacking midfielder burst onto the first-team scene in the Checkatrade Trophy against Cambridge United by scoring minutes after coming on as a substitute and has since made nine appearances for Chris Powell’s side.
And he stated his pride at committing his future to the club.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here since coming and I think everyone has helped me immensely so it is a massive step in the right direction and hopefully I can push on from here,” he said.
“I’d like to think I’ve improved since joining in the summer. I found it tough at the start because it’s a new club and you have to get to know people, but everyone’s been brilliant, coaches and players, and I think I’ve pushed on well and improved a lot.”
“I had an offer from Sparta Prague, so quite a big European club, but I came on trial and really enjoyed it here. Ricky [Duncan] spoke to me a lot and I liked what he said and how the club sounded, and I wanted to be part of it."
Hutchinson had an offer from Czech Republic-based giants Sparta Prague on the table before choosing Roots Hall as his next destination.
He pinpointed the proven pathway to the first team as the reason which edged his decision, with many examples of players progressing from Academy to first team.
“I had an offer from Sparta Prague, so quite a big European club, but I came on trial and really enjoyed it here,” Hutchinson added. “Ricky [Duncan] spoke to me a lot and I liked what he said and how the club sounded, and I wanted to be part of it.
“I heard about the likes of Elvis [Bwomono] and Dru [Yearwood] and I couldn’t think of a better place to go. With them examples I thought this was the best place for me.
“Clubs like Southend do give you the chance if you’re good enough and that itself shows I made the right decision to pick Southend.”
Maybe injuries to others in the squad paved the way for Hutchinson, but it’s still down to the individual to step up and prove he’s capable of performing to the right levels.
“It’s probably not the way you want to get your chance, with injuries to other players, but when it comes you have to take it.
“I’m happy that the manager has put me in, and I’d like to think I’ve taken my chances when they’ve come.
“It’s either sink or swim. You have to enjoy the opportunity when it comes and try and express yourself and show why the coaches trust you.”
You couldn’t have scripted a better debut for the youngster, bagging a goal seconds after his introduction in the Checkatrade Trophy.
On the moment, Hutchinson said: “It really kick-started things and since then I’ve worked even harder and I’d like to think I’ve improved.
“The gaffer has put a lot of faith in me and given me starts in the league so that speaks for itself.
“I’ve only been here just over half a season and he has put me in the squad. I’ve really enjoyed working with the gaffer and he’s really helped me improve.
“Now, more than ever, it’s about working harder because I’ve got two and a half years where I can really push to be a regular starter in the team and see what we can achieve.
“Being involved in the first team just gives you motivation to be playing more and helping the team get three points.
“I want to get as many minutes as possible and try and affect the games as much I can with goals and assists. There’s still things to work on but each week I want to get better and be a key part of the team.”