Former West Ham midfielder Josh Payne is relishing a second chance of rebuilding his career after a prison sentence threatened to end it.
The goal scoring middleman has shone in non-league for both Woking and Eastleigh - netting 11 times in more than 100 appearances - since serving a six-month sentence for assault in 2012.
That saw his contract at Aldershot terminated and threatened to be the end of a promising career for the 25-year-old, who played in the Premier League under Gianfranco Zola two years previously.
But with plenty of hard work, the former Oxford United man has earned his way back up the pyramid in the past three years.
Payne has a genuine enthusiasm, excitement and appreciation about getting back into League Two and although keen to keep the past, the past, he does acknowledge it has grounded him.
He said: “Obviously I have been out of the Football League for three seasons now, it’s one thing to get back in, but to get back in with a club like Crawley is unbelievable.
“To play non-league, for me I had to start from there after a year’s rest and rightly so, I feel I have built on that.
“In my first couple of years in the Conference I had it in the back of my mind. I feel it every time I speak about it, and it is there to be spoken about, but personally it is dead and buried now.
“I want to forget it and move on. Personally, I have tried to appreciate the person I am a lot more. Perhaps I did take things for granted before the situation.
“With what happened, I have accepted everything. Having been playing football in the Conference to take a step up into the league is fantastic. I just want to get stuck in, hopefully I will be in the team and fighting for a place.
“I had a great opportunity to work with Garry Hill at Woking and built on that, but went to Eastleigh and it did not quite work out there for one reason or another.
“The manager changed halfway through the season and he had different ideas, which is fair enough, so to get an opportunity at Crawley, I am over the moon.”
The Portsmouth and Southampton trainee has a genuine excitement in his voice about getting back to work. And he only has good expectations of things at Crawley, he added: “I am really excited to get back to pre-season and meet all the new faces and work with the staff. I have always heard good things about Crawley. I have played with players that have been at Crawley and heard lots of good things about them.
“The great thing is that the manager likes the style of how I like to play and I feel I will suit the style of play. He has worked with Arsenal and Chelsea and like I said, I have heard nothing but great things about him.”
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