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Interviews

FIRST TEAM DEBUT CAPS SPECIAL SEASON FOR BENTON

3 May 2022

Jon Benton’s first team debut on Monday against Weymouth capped a special season for the 21-year-old midfielder.

Benton came off the bench in the 68th minute of the 1-1 draw at Roots Hall.

And he was delighted and grateful to be given his opportunity after returning from a successful stint on loan at Aveley.

“I’m very grateful that I was able to get my debut before the end of the season considering I was on loan at Aveley until the end of the season,” said Benton. “Fortunately their season finished earlier than Southend’s and it was a great day for me personally.

“I’ve been at the club since joining halfway through under 9’s and have been through the Academy all the way through, got my scholarship and then first professional contract.

“Being here since a little boy and watching the first team growing up thinking one day I could potentially make my debut, it was a big day for it to finally happen. My family and I have spoken about it a lot and for it to finally happen was a very good day for us.

“The majority of my life I’ve spent with the club and now  I’ve made my debut, so it was a big thing.”

Benton had his mum, dad and brothers at Roots Hall watching in the stands.

And the midfielder said how important his loan was for allowing the chance to come his way.

“I’ve had a good season. I was asked to go out on loan which I thought would be the best thing for me, to play men’s football.

“We don’t have a league in the U23’s so going out on loan was the best option, to play week in week out.

“I played 25 games in five months and it was a good experience which then gave me the opportunity to get noticed and be in the squad last week, and make my debut yesterday.

“Overall I’m very pleased and very happy that it happened.”

Benton scored 16 goals and created another 18 more for his teammates while on loan at The Millers as they won promotion from the Isthmian North to the Isthmian Premier League.

He’s also been nominated for Step 4 Midfielder of the Season, and the whole experience gave him the belief to come back to Blues and make the step into the first team.

“Aveley was a very good club for me,” Benton added.

“As soon as I walked in there I was welcomed openly and everyone was spot on. There wasn’t a massive difference from how it’s run in the U23s, which is what I used to, so it wasn’t like I was going there and it was a big shock between professional and non-league.

“It was good to be part of it and play every game.

“The manager believed in me, the boys were great too and winning the league was brilliant.

“It gave me the confidence to come back and train with the first team here at Southend, to go and show what I can do to the Manager.”

Benton’s impressive performances did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff, who were regularly checking in with him.

“Everyone’s been very good to me, even when I was on loan the gaffer and the coaching team all spoke to me and asked how I was getting on.

“All three of them [Kevin Maher, Darren Currie, Mark Bentley] would come up to me, they’d know my results and if I had scored. It was good that they were following what I was doing and it was nice to hear that. You don’t know who’s watching, but it was great to be getting feedback from them.

“Giving me my chance now it shows that they were impressed.

“Before going on [against Weymouth] the gaffer said to me there’s no pressure so go and enjoy myself, get on the ball and show what I can do and try and get a goal. It was a good experience.”

His target now is to be involved again on the final day of the season and for more opportunities to impress.

“I would love to get a start or show what I can do in the final game of the season. But it’s a big squad and competition is high.

“If I was told before the start of the season that I would go on loan and win the league with Aveley, then come back and make my debut with Southend then I would’ve taken that all day.

“It’s been a good season and it gives you that motivation now to do it again and kick on from here.”

 


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