Boyhood Bluenose Charlie Lakin got the perfect early 18th birthday present when he signed professional terms for the club that he supports.
On 8 May 2017, just three days before his milestone occasion, the Solihull-born teenager put pen to paper on a one-year deal at St. Andrew’s.
In doing so, he not only made his own dreams come true, but those of his whole family as well.
“I’m a Blues fan and all my family are Blues fans, so everyone is overwhelmed, especially my grandad – he’s a massive Bluenose,” says Lakin, a former pupil of Langley School.
“My dad used to bring me and my sister down to games quite a lot. As I got older I started coming on my own and recently attended quite a few games with my grandad.
“One of my early Blues heroes was Seb Larsson, I thought he was really good. And we’ve had some great strikers over the years, like Mikael Forssell and Kevin Phillips.
“I had loads of favourite players but I did focus particularly on players that played in the same position as me, so as a young kid I tried to watch and learn from the wide men.”
It has been a long journey to get where he is today. Lakin was spotted by Blues playing for Walsall Under-9s and made the switch across the West Midlands to his spiritual home.
“For the past nine years I have been working towards getting this opportunity to sign a professional deal and now all that hard work has paid off. I’m overwhelmed,” he admits.
“I always wished this day would come. I know that I’ve now got to continue to work hard to keep developing and progressing my career.”
Lakin had already made several appearances for the Under-18s by the time he started his scholarship in 2015.
Back then he was considered as a defender or midfielder, but as time has gone on he has concentrated on the more advanced role, either on the left or in the centre of the park.
“I’ve got really good fitness. I’m energetic all over the pitch, work hard for the team, tackling, passing and try and get goals with every opportunity I have.
“All the coaches along the way have helped me physically, mentally and also technically and tactically,” says the youngster, who also credits his parents for the big part they have played during his early footballing days.
In February of this year, Lakin followed his Academy team-mate Ollie Mulders, a fellow new Blues professional, in making the move up to the Under-23s squad.
He has subsequently chalked up 13 appearances, scoring two goals, for Richard Beale’s side. And his promotion also coincided with a considerable upturn in results for the Development Squad group.
“I feel as though I’ve made the step up really well. I’ve started quite a lot of games and come on as sub a few times and also got two goals as well,” says the attacking midfielder, who netted in the final Under-23s game of the season.
It was an important goal that put Blues 3-2 up late on against Nottingham Forest – the eventual 5-2 success catapulted Beale’s team up to third, although they were subsequently knocked down to fourth in the final PDL2 table.
“It’s a lot different to 18s football because it’s more physical and a lot harder, but I feel like I’ve dealt with it really well,” says Lakin, when asked about his experience playing at a higher age level.
“We went on a great run towards the end of the season and nearly got into the play-offs. Grabbing myself two goals along the way and helping the team was brilliant.
“I’ve now got to push on even more to try and get from the 23s into the First Team.
“Hopefully one day my family will be able to watch me out there on the St. Andrew’s pitch and cheer me on.”