Getting to know. . . Joe Rodon
15th March 2016
As part of our new Swans Academy content, we speak to an upcoming talent within the youth ranks at the club.
Next under the spotlight is under-18s defender Joe Rodon, who talks about playing across the academy age groups, taking advice from a Swans legend and singing in front of the first team.
When reflecting on 2015-16 in years to come, young Swansea City defender Joe Rodon would be able take pride in just how much he has achieved this season.
Still only a second-year scholar with the academy, the teenager's ability in central defence has seen him step up to regularly feature for the under-21s, while he has also been called upon to train with the likes of Ashley Williams and Federico Fernandez in the first team.
The 18-year-old's progression took another leap in January when Rodon came within touching distance of his first-team debut after being named on the bench for Swansea's FA Cup tie against Oxford.
"It was a massive experience and probably the biggest I have had in my career so far," says the young centre-back.
"I was about to travel to London with the U18s to play Arsenal, but when I arrived at Landore I was told I wouldn't be travelling, and that myself and Daniel (James) were needed for the first team.
"It was such a shock that we had been given an opportunity, and I was so grateful to the club and coaching staff.
"Alan Curtis was fantastic with me that day. He spoke to me before the game about keeping focused, not to get carried away, to treat it like any other game if I came on but, above all, to enjoy the occasion.
"It was great to have that advice from someone who has seen and done it all for the Swans."
One area Curtis could not advise Rodon on was the traditional initiation that welcomes new recruits to the first-team set-up, which is where Rodon knew he would need to find his voice.
"I knew it was coming," he laughs. "Every new player has to stand up in front of the squad and sing a song. If you bottle it or don't perform well, you are done. Not literally, but the shame!
"I sang 'Ain't no mountain high enough' - it was embarrassing but great fun at the same time. Despite the nerves, it was great to be a part of. It helps you bond with the players and helps you come out of your shell.
"Because I am the youngest, even with the U21s, I get a lot of banter thrown my way, but to be honest I love it and I have learned to thrive off it."
Rodon is no stranger to being handed an opportunity to prove himself.
The young defender was given his first chance to play for Swansea's development squad just three weeks after turning 17 in November 2014 during a 4-1 win over Brentford.
It was an opportunity the young Swan admits helped him impress the U21s setup.
"It was a totally new experience for me, but one I knew I needed to take with both hands," admits Rodon. "Soon after, I found myself on the bench for the U21s' game against Leeds at the Liberty Stadium. We were 1-0 down and I came on for the last 20 minutes, and we managed to turn it around to win the game 2-1.
"Chris Llewellyn was the head coach for the U21s at the time and he asked me if I could deliver what he had just seen for a full game.
"The following week I played a full 90 minutes against Millwall's U21s. I soon realised that if you want to better yourself you need to be playing against older players, otherwise you don't learn anything.
"I feel those opportunities sparked my chance with the development squad. They have helped my career progress massively and I have not looked back since."
Rodon, who hails from Morriston in Swansea, grew up watching the Swans at the Vetch Field before his talents earned him a place in the club's academy at the age of eight.
The last decade of his life has been a surreal experience, but one which has helped shape his determination to succeed.
"I used to go to Swans games all the time," he said. "I was a season ticket holder and, like a lot of boys from the local area, would come to the games with my family.
"You look back and realise just how fast the last ten years have gone. It still feels like yesterday that I was watching Lee Trundle at the Vetch and playing for the U9s.
"It is crazy to think a decade on from all that I am playing for the U21s and within touching distance of a professional contract and a possible chance to play for the first team.
"I know I still have a long way to go but to have come as far as I have is a dream come true."
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