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Spencer Prior reveals delight at winning Echo poll to find best Southend United product
SPENCER Prior has expressed his delight at being voted the best ever product of Southend United’s youth system.
The former centre-back received 33 per cent of the votes in an EchoSport poll which attracted more than 1,000 responses.
And the Southend-born 42-year-old admitted he was surprised to have come out on top.
“It’s unbelievably humbling and honestly very unexpected,” said Prior, who enjoyed two successful spells with the Shrimpers.
“I owe a huge thanks to Kevin Locke and Paul Heffer who gave me some amazing guidance during my youth team days at the club.
“And even being in the same list as Paul Clark and Justin Edinburgh is a real achievement in itself.”
Prior finished ahead of Edinburgh who received 24 per cent of the votes, with Michael Kightly in third.
The defender made 245 appearances for Blues and secured four promotions while with the club.
He also played for Norwich City, Leicester, Derby County, Manchester City and Cardiff.
But, despite that top level experience, he vividly remembers his spell in the youth team with the Shrimpers.
“My first memories of training with the club go back as far as training behind the old South Stand on the concrete with Frankie Banks,” said Prior.
“After that I joined on a YTS scholarship for £27.50 a week, plus expenses, and we had a great team including Justin Edinburgh.
“We worked bloody hard on the pitch and off it.
“We painted the changing rooms, swept the stands, washed the kit and cleaned the boots.
“We even had the job of washing the gaffer’s car, but I loved every minute of it and look back with some amazing memories.
“There was nothing precious or glamorous about being an apprentice in those days, but we never complained.”
Back then, things were not going quite so well on the pitch for Prior who endured an unsuccessful spell as a striker before being pushed back into defence.
“Believe it or not I actually played the first season of my youth team days as a number nine and I went the whole season without scoring a goal,” said Prior.
“I believe the conversation with Kevin went something like: ‘Spinner, you’re not going to make it as a striker, so we need to find somewhere else for you to play. How do you fancy trying as centre back!’ “Six months later I was playing there for the first team.”
From then on Prior began to impress on a consistent basis and went on to make more than 600 senior appearances.