Southampton Football Club is pleased to announce that Jake Hesketh is the latest Academy youngster to pen professional terms.
A decade after joining the Club, the 18-year-old has secured his senior future for the first time at St Mary’s following a stellar campaign in which he became the top scorer for Saints Under-18s.
Hesketh has joined Josh Sims, Harry Isted, Marcus Barnes and Josh Debayo in the list of players from his rank who have secured professional contracts in recent months.
The youngster spoke of his delight at being offered terms after being tested in Martin Hunter’s Development Squad in the latter stages of the 2013/14 season.
“This is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little boy,” Hesketh told saintsfc.co.uk immediately after putting pen-to-paper. “It’s only just the start but it’s a big step on the way.
“My parents are both really proud and it’s nice to give them that feeling. I’m absolutely delighted.
“Originally, there was a meeting around a month ago where I was given a month with the Under-21s to see how I adapted and how I did in that time.
“When they called me in recently I knew what it was about as the month was up. I still couldn’t tell whether I’d be signing – I was nervous.
“It was a big month for me but I knew if I carried on playing the way I had been then I’d be okay.”
Hesketh ended the season having found the net on 13 occasions in all competitions, which sees him at the peak of the goalscoring chart – a tally accumulated from an attacking midfield position.
The Staplewood product revealed that extra training had been put in to work on his eye for goal as he looked to improve an aspect of his game he feels is vital in his role.
Hesketh continued: “I thought I’d chip in with some goals but expected to be more predominantly assist-based. To be top scorer is something I’m quite proud of.
“At the start of the season I was told I needed to add an end product – goals. I was given a target of getting ten or above.
“I started the season quite slowly in terms of goals. I got a couple before around November and then I went on a run of scoring in pretty much every game until Christmas. That gave me a boost of confidence and told me I could do it.
“I’d been doing finishing sessions and staying on my own after training. I’ve been doing work on different types of finishing and I just think it came together at the right time.
“The goals have really helped. Without them, it could have been a struggle because that’s what you look for in players who play in number-ten positions. They all score goals as well as getting assists. It was something I needed to add to my game.”
The midfielder is refusing to rest on his laurels and is likening next season with the U21s as a larger version of the testing month that ultimately saw him seal his foreseeable future with Saints.
Hesketh is hoping to build on a campaign of success that initially saw him selected for an England Under-17 training camp alongside Club teammate Debayo.
The diminutive playmaker insists he wants to replicate this year’s goal and assist hauls – providing he can break into Hunter’s side and hold down a regular place at the earliest opportunity.
Jake concluded: “I’ve been told to take what I’ve done for the U18s into the U21 team, and to keep improving things and push for a starting place next season.
“I’ve got to be aiming for a similar amount of goals depending on how much I play. Obviously my first target has to be to break into the team and then keep myself in by scoring goals and getting assists. I’m going to aim for double figures again.”