Joe Rodon Swansea City Swans USA
18th July 2016
He grew up dreaming of emulating Lee Trundle and these days his idol is Ashley Williams.
Joe Rodon is not alone there.
What makes this former Liberty season-ticket holder different from most is that he has a big chance of following Trundle and Williams into the Swansea City first team.
Born in the city and raised in Llangyfelach, Rodon was spotted by the Swans when he was still at primary school.
Some 11 years on, this promising product of the youth set up in SA1 has just spent ten days training and playing alongside the club's senior stars in the United States.
"The trip was one of the best experiences of my career so far, with the training and the games and just being in the first-team environment every day," Rodon says.
"Being away with the senior players was great for me. You don't go home, you are out there with the players and the staff all the time.
"You get to know everyone better. You have got to be together as the players because it's just you out there.
"You have to come together as a group because all you have got is each other.
"I have learned a lot from the senior lads. If I made a mistake the likes of Leon (Britton) and Jack (Cork) just said 'don't worry, it's the beginning of pre-season, everyone makes mistakes and the whole point is to get them out of the way now'."
Rodon's involvement under Francesco Guidolin is the latest step forward in what has been an impressive rise for a player who was spotted by Swans scouts playing for Llangyfelach AFC.
The centre-back was handed a first professional deal - a two-year contract - last summer.
Despite being just 18, he broke into the Swans' under-21 side in 2015-16, and even made the first-team bench at Oxford United back in January.
Now he has been given an extended chance to impress Guidolin, and Rodon is loving every minute of it.
"It's fantastic for me," he adds. "I was a huge Swans fan as a kid - I was a season-ticket holder.
"My first games were at the Vetch. Lee Trundle was my favourite player. I think it was the same for everyone in those days.
"My big idol now is Ashley Williams. He is the player I look up to most, and hopefully I will get a chance to work with him and see him up close this season."
The likes of Williams, Federico Fernandez, Jordi Amat and new recruit Mike van der Hoorn provide more experienced central defensive options for Guidolin.
But Rodon did not look out of place during two friendly appearances on tour in America.
The same could be said of the many other youngsters who were in the States, including keeper Josh Vickers, full-back Connor Roberts, winger Dan James and striker Oliver McBurnie.
"We had a great bunch of lads on tour - I couldn't have asked for any more," Rodon says.
"As one of the young players, it was great to have a group of us out there who have played together in the under-21s.
"I think I have just got to take every step as it comes. I am still a young lad and there's still a lot of work to be done. I will just try to deal with each step as it comes in pre-season and then through into the season.
"The manager said to the young lads before the first game in America to enjoy the opportunity because it was our chance to show him what we can do and what we are about. Hopefully we did that."