Hadleigh teenager Josh Rees’s bid to build a career in the world of Premier League football takes a major step forward tonight.

For the Southend High School for Boys student will attend a special ceremony at the Emirates Stadium home of Arsenal to celebrate the fact that he has just signed a two-year scholarship deal with the north London giants.

A lifelong Gunners fan, Rees first joined Arsenal’s academy shortly before his ninth birthday when he was a pupil at Hadleigh Primary School.

His talents were first spotted by local Arsenal scout Bob Woolf and since then the 16-year-old’s footballing career has come on in leaps and bounds, most latterly under the direction of Arsenal youth coach Liam Brady, the former Arsenal, West Ham and Republic of Ireland international.

Tonight’s ceremony will see Rees and others who have just signed scholarship deals celebrate the fact at the Gunners’ impressive multi-million pounds stadium.

It is not only on the domestic front that Rees has made his mark.

He was part of the England under-16 squad that won the home international Victory Shield and scored his first international goal with the under-17s in the last campaign.

He had to turn down the chance of being involved in the under-17 squad for their European Championship challenge this summer as it clashes with him sitting GCSE exams at his Prittlewell Chase-based school.

A sporting all-rounder, who also excels at athletics and cricket, Rees will be with the Gunners full-time from July and will live at their training base at London Colney.

Like most major clubs, Arsenal are now well aware of the need to insist their youngsters continue their education as well as furthering their soccer careers.

At London Colney, his time will be split between soccer and education and, at the end of his two-year scholarship, he hopes to sit four GCE A levels — although these are more likely to be in more sport related subjects than if he had carried on with a more traditional route of education.

If soccer had not been his passion, Rees would likely have followed a path from grammar school to university and possibly a career in law.

“Nothing’s set in stone in the world of professional football and Josh realises that he has a long way to go to make it in the world of full-time Premier League soccer,” said Rees’s dad Simon.

“But this is a wonderful opportunity for him and one he fully intends to take full advantage of.”

The Echo has followed Josh’s career from the start and Simon added: “We’re all delighted with the support that the Echo, and others locally, have given Josh and we hope that everyone will continue following his career closely.”

Rees was named Echo junior sports personality of the year for 2008 and collected third place in the 2009 awards, the ceremony for which was held at Billericay Town’s New Lodge ground a fortnight ago.