|Date of Birth: |
|Place of birth:|
|2020 (on loan)|
So Joe – introduce yourself…
My name is joe Willis, I’m a professional footballer currently playing at Walsall FC. Football has been a massive part of my life since 8 years old. I was signed by West Bromwich Albion at age 10. I spent 2 and half years in the West Brom academy before I was released age 12. I then moved onto Walsall and never looked back. I came through the Walsall Academy and made professional debut in January 2020 and finally signed my first pro deal in July 2020.
What are your specific qualities as a football player?
I’m an energetic box to box midfielder who likes to get on the ball and make things happen. I am a natural leader, captaining pretty much every age group I played in at Walsall. My commitment and work ethic are important qualities for me as a player, Spending those hours after training doing extras constantly trying to improve myself is what’s helped me into the pro game.
Who was the player, or players, you looked up to most growing up, and why?
For me personally, Steven Gerrard was my idol. He was the complete midfielder for me and I modelled game on him. I would always be watching clips of him and try to take that into my game.
Who are the most important people within football environment?
My family definitely, my mom and dad have supported me since I was 8 taking me to training and games over the years. They would be driving me all over the country on their weekends to watch me play. They’re always there for me in the bad times when things aren’t going so well but more importantly they’re honest with me.
Joe, you came from the youth of Walsall FC. Did you noticed a lot of difference between the youth and the first team ?
Massively! Youth team and 23’s football is great for learning and improving but the intensity and pressure of the first team to get the 3 points is main difference for me. Everything is so much quicker and as a young player breaking in, you have to be at it every day in training! You can’t afford to have a poor session, you have to train and play like it’s your last game.
You made you debut for Walsall on 7 January 2020, coming on as a second-half substitute in a 2–1 EFL Trophy defeat at home to Portsmouth. How important was that moment for you ?
It was a fantastic experience! To get a taste of first team football against a top league 1 team was huge for me. However, it made me realise how hard I needed to work to now stay at this level and get more professional games under my belt. That was my motivation!
On 13 February 2020, you joined Salisbury FC on a one-month loan. How important was your time at Salisbury in your development?
This was probably the biggest learning experience in my career so far. I was 18 just made my pro debut and finding 18’s and 23’s football very comfortable. The manager told me he wanted me to go for a month and experience men’s football. It was tough! I was driving 3/4 hours to and from games on my own to a completely new team who I felt maybe didn’t accept me as a young 18 year old trying to come in and play non-league men’s football. I learnt so much about men’s football and it made me want to go back to Walsall and prove to the manager I was ready.
In July 2020 you signed your first professional contract with Walsall FC. How did you experience that moment ?
I was delighted to finally sign my first professional contract. Walsall are a fantastic club and I’ve thrived here since i was young. It was a proud moment for me and my family after all the years of hard work.
What is the best thing about playing for Walsall FC ?
It’s a great club with a manager and coaching staff who are willing to give me a chance. They help me improve every day and give me the freedom to go out there and express myself.
Joe, what are your personal goals for the next season ?
Firstly to take every opportunity that comes my way! The main thing for me is playing, I want to be out there playing professional football as much as I can, I would like to get 15-20 games under my belt in my first season. Finally, I want to show the manager the fans what I’m about and help the football club as much as possible.