CALLUM Taylor insists making his first team debut for Southend United was ‘the best feeling of his life’.

The 18-year-old shot-stopper replaced the injured Mark Oxley in the closing stages of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Coventry City at Roots Hall.

And Taylor, who has been with Blues since the age of nine, was thrilled to get onto his pitch.

“It was honestly the best feeling of my life when I stepped onto the pitch,” said Taylor.

“I’ve been at the club since I was nine and have been watching them pretty much every week with my dad since then too.

“We’ve been to Morecambe, Wembley and many others so after watching the first team for all those years it was slightly surreal to be out there playing at Roots Hall in front of our tremendous fans.”

Taylor, who is the Shrimpers’ youth team goalkeeper, has been on the bench for the first team’s last five matches after Nathan Bishop’s departure to join Manchester United.

And the youngster was slightly nervous before entering the action.

“I had some nerves as I’m sure anyone would but I did feel confident coming on and the reception I got from the fans was unreal and kept me calm,” said Taylor.

“I just wanted to get out there and show what I can do and help the boys as much as I could.

“But the lads have been great with me since being involved and Saturday was no different.”

Taylor has represented Northern Ireland at youth level.

However, he is now enjoying working within the Shrimpers’ senior set up and training alongside Mark Oxley.

“Ox is a great lad, he’s so supportive and a great role model to look up to,” said Taylor.

“It’s never nice seeing him go down injured but I have to make sure I am always ready.

“Some goalkeepers don’t like to warm up during the game but not me.

“I always like to keep myself sharp and Saturday was no different so I was as ready to come on as I could’ve been.

“I’ve really enjoyed being around the first team, especially as a second year scholar.

“Being involved is the main goal and I was delighted when I was in the squad for the first time.

“The lads have been great as well as the gaffer and the other coaches including Lee (Harrison).

“The job Lee does is second to none and he’s really helped me settle in around the first team.”

But Taylor is now hungry for more.

“Coming on was the highlight of my career so far but it’s only a taster and has given me even more drive to play more games and stay involved,” said the youngster.

“It’s means a lot as I came here on trial in the under 10 age group and signed a few months after that.

“Mike Marsh and Dave Johnson scouted me at my Sunday League team Forest Glade who were great for me.

“But Southend is all I remember so it’s great that I can now say I’ve played for the first team and hopefully there is more to come.”

And Taylor will continue to work hard in pursuit of further opportunities.

“I’ll just keep working hard and doing what I’ve always done and hopefully I will get some more opportunities,” said Taylor, who attended William de Ferrers School in South Woodham Ferrers.

“My main hope is to stay in and around it.

“I most definitely want to stay within the first team set up and stay within the squad.

“Obviously I’d love to get more minutes and hopefully some starts as that’s the main aim for any footballer really.