JACK Payne is desperate to prove he is worth a regular slot in Southend United’s starting line-up when Walsall visit Roots Hall tonight.
The 19-year-old midfielder looks set to be handed just the third start of his Shrimpers career and his first since October in this evening’s Capital One Cup first round clash.
And Payne is desperate to make the most of the opportunity.
“Last year it was all about being in and around the first team but this year I want to be a regular starter and one of the main players,” said Payne.
“I want a chance to show what I can do and then I want to make sure I take it.
“Then I will need to keep on doing the same but hopefully I do get the chance to play against Walsall because it would be a good experience for me if I did.”
Payne, who came through the youth ranks at Roots Hall, made 15 appearances last season but the majority of those came from the bench.
However, the youngster made his debut at this stage of the Capital One Cup last season, starting the 1-0 defeat against Yeovil Town.
And he wants the Shrimpers to secure a far more successful result this time round.
“I got my first start in this competition last year but unfortunately we didn’t get the win so hopefully we can this time,” said Payne.
“Yeovil was a tough first game as they were from a higher division and they were really good.
“I’m sure Walsall will be as well but there’s no reason why we can’t beat them if we play like we can.
“It was a good team performance at Accrington on Saturday, we deserved the three points and hopefully we can we can build on that with another good result.”
In a bid to help make that happen, Blues boss Phil Brown could switch to a 5-3-2.
And that would be welcome news for Payne.
“It will be good if the manager does that because the formation suits me, being just being behind the strikers,” said Payne.
“I get on the ball and face towards goal so that’s my favourite position and I would love to play there tonight.”
Shrimpers chief Brown hinted that Payne is likely to play.
And he wants more of the club’s youngsters to follow in his foot-steps.
“Jack’s responsibly this year is to play tonight and to try and stay in the team,” said Brown.
“That has to be his ambition and we need to see more of the development squad breaking through.
“That’s a target of mine and I would like to have more home-grown talent in the side and more lads who are born and bred in Southend.”