CONOR Clifford is out to make a real name for himself with Southend United this season.
The Irish midfielder captained Chelsea to FA Youth Cup success as a youngster but has since struggled to establish himself in the senior ranks.
The 22-year-old has made just 33 starts in the past four seasons with seven different clubs.
But he has kicked off the new League Two campaign in impressive fashion.
And Clifford is eager to again impress when the Shrimpers host Stevenage at Roots Hall tomorrow.
“I’ve worked hard to get in the team and now I don’t want to let this shirt go,” said Clifford.
“I finally feel like I’ve found a home being at Southend now. I get on well with the manager and the lads and I want to get this club promoted this season.”
Clifford aims to play a key part in that happening too as he strives to show the promise he showed as a youngster.
As a teenager, he scored the winning goal to help Chelsea beat Aston Villa and win the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 49 years.
But Clifford felt it would have been virtually impossible to rise through the ranks at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s really tough, you have to be an absolute world beater and sometimes even that’s not good enough,” he recalled.
“They have so many players and I think last season they had 24 or 25 out on loan.
“I think it’s best to go out and play in games that matter.
“That’s what I did but this is a very important year for me.
“I need to play as many games as I can and make sure I’m doing well for the team.”
With that in mind, Clifford worked tirelessly during his summer break to ensure he reported back for pre-season in great shape.
The midfielder took just a two week break from fitness work and hired his own personal trainer to ensure he was in the best possible condition.
“I worked hard with the personal trainer and came back in really good shape,” said Clifford.
“I feel I’ve got the momentum now but I need to keep going and stay in the side.”
Clifford’s next opportunity to impress will come against Stevenage at Roots Hall tomorrow.
But the midfielder is expecting another real test against Graham Westley’s team.
“It will be a tough game because they are known to be strong, fit and physical,” said Clifford.
“However, I think we can get the three points and hopefully get a bit of a run together.