“After leaving Charlton, to be honest it felt like it was the end of the world and I had nothing left.”
It’s a quote from Jordan Williams that perfectly captures the despair felt by nearly every young footballer who has ever been released by their first club.
Luckily, it wasn’t the end of the story for south London-born full-back who is now hoping to make the grade at League One outfit Southend FC.
After being shown the exit by Charlton in 2013, he was without a club for six weeks – it felt more like six years, he recalls.
“I just have to thank God for everything and thank my family for all the support because they were there for me and kept me going,” Williams told me.
“I trained at a few other clubs in that space of time, but it was how Southend made me feel welcome and the way they showed how much they wanted me there that made me sign with them.”
Now 19, Williams has signed his first professional contract and his hoping to break into the first team at Roots Hall after two years as a scholarship player.
He insists there isn’t much difference in quality of players, style of play or training between his old and current clubs – although Southend’s facilities could be improved.
“After being at the club for three years now, I definitely feel settled and I am happy to be here”
“It doesn’t really differ at all to be honest. It’s just the same as all the other clubs I have been at. Playing with very good players is bringing the best out of me, and the intensity of the sessions are very good.
“The club have really high standards set out. First and foremost if we can, the managers have always taught us that we should play our football on the floor. The facilities are okay. They could be better but they are working on that.”
Williams is excited at the prospect of Southend’s planned move to a new 21,000-seater stadium at Fossetts Farm in the not-too-distant future.
” I don’t really know when it’s going to start being built, but that’s something for the club to look forward to and it shows that it’s on the up.”
Although he still calls Stockwell home, Williams says he feels settled at Southend and has built good relationships with his team-mates.
“After being at the club for three years now, I definitely feel settled and I am happy to be here.
Phil Brown gives young players a chance if they’re good enough”
“I have a good relationship with all the players and don’t have any problems with anybody. Jack Payne has to be someone I look up to. He has come through the youth system and has gone on to make a lot of appearances, becoming a really important player for the club.”
Williams says he tries to integrate the different styles of his favourite players into his own game.
“Defensively, I try to base my game on Cesar Azpilicueta from Chelsea. I think he’s a great defender, and not many wingers have the beating of him.
“Going forward I try to base my game more on Pablo Zabaleta of Man City. I think he is the best full-back around when it comes to attacking, with the amount of clever runs he makes in behind the other team’s defenders.”
Williams is happy to be playing under Southend manager Phil Brown, who made his name taking Hull City into the Premier League.
“He’s a good manager to work with,” he said. “He gives young players a chance if they’re good enough.”
“I would like to be playing in the Championship in a couple years’ time”
Williams adds that he sees fellow Stockwell native Nathaniel Clyne, the Liverpool and England right back, as a role model whose progress he’d like to emulate.
“Coming from Stockwell, Nathaniel Clyne is someone I look up to a lot, and I want to follow in his footsteps.
“But first and foremost my aim is to break into the Southend first team, and you never know what can happen from there really. Realistically, I would like to be playing in the Championship in a couple years’ time. Through hard work I think this is achievable.”
Many young footballers often have an older family member in the game, and Williams is no different. Older brother George is the defender’s agent and manages everything off the pitch for his younger sibling.
“It is great having him as my agent. Sometimes I know it could be annoying having him on my case all the time, but I know it’s for the best and it’s because he cares.
“The advice and motivation he gives me to keep going is priceless, and I know for sure I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for him.”
Williams grew up supporting Arsenal and says he has a growing affection for Catalan giants Barcelona.
“Besides Arsenal, who I support, Barcelona are my second team. My dream move? It has to be to Barcelona!”
But Williams knows it’s one step at a time and, having come through his devastating release by Charlton, he’s taking nothing for granted.