To progress to the point he did by 21, it was only natural that John would continue from there, making his way rapidly through the ranks.
“I just progressed through the ages really at Peterborough from nines, up to sixteens, seventeens, nineteens as it was at the time, reserve team manager, first team coach but I was lucky to work with great people as well.
“I was running a community programme that had to generate money, as well as recruiting players for the centre of excellence. So, managing people, running a business early on, making sure that the CEO was happy with the income generation it had its challenges.
“I was also working in the recruitment side of things, so it was a challenge to get the right players. We were trying to come up with innovative ideas, obviously get the best players but also generate money to fund the youth policy as well.
“Barry Fry was the manager at the time, at Peterborough United, and I was the first team coach, but always the number three behind the assistant manager.
“I think during my time there, Peter Taylor had done a little bit , Wayne Turner was a really good assistant manager, Bobby Gould was there for a bit, Jimmy Quinn, so worked I with really good people, and learned a lot from quite a young age.
“It was really interesting [working with Barry]. I got quite a lot of free reign to plan the sessions and coach the first team at that point, which was great. You might not get that if you're a number three and being so young for other clubs. Obviously, when it comes to match-day that's Barry's time and I understood that.
“I learned so much in terms of players, details, contracts, he knew every player in every league, when a contract is up, he knew everything. He was on the phone 24/7 and recruitment wise, he was always very good and to be in the game as long as he has is commendable.”
John left Peterborough to become player development manager for Ireland with the football association of Ireland, setting up 12 regional talent centres across the country. Then, in 2008, he became manager of Ireland under-16s, where he’d previously done work experience as a coach alongside Brian Kerr, and further became manager of the under-17s side that competed well in the European championships.
That brings us to 2012 when John took on the huge task of academy manager at Brighton & Hove Albion, who were in a big transitioning stage at the time. It meant taking on a role slightly away from coaching, but one he warmed to right away.
“It was a little bit different because I'd always been out coaching. But, because the job got so big, so quickly, I found myself being less and less on the grass. I still do bits, but nowhere near what I would have done in the past, and it became more of a management role than an actual coach on the grass.
“It was fast paced at the time though, so it was fine, because you could see that we were trying to build something, and it was going to flourish over time. You wouldn't think at the time I came in, that the training ground would look like it does now.
“We're lucky, we work in a nigh on perfect facility, and environment, which takes a lot of time and you create that environment over years and the people in it. We're also lucky that we've got some excellent staff, very innovative, very conscientious, good developers, in all departments.
“We've got a really good working environment. As a coach, you always want the players to enjoy it and come back next session. It’s exactly the same what we want for the staff, in that they enjoy coming into work every day. If they enjoy coming into work every day, I'm sure the players enjoy coming in too.
“It’s my job to make the staff have the tools to be the best they can be to develop their departments year on year to ultimately deliver a high quality programme for the players.”
It's a huge responsibility that John has, but it’s pressure he thrives off.
“It's a good pressure because Graham [Potter] and his first team staff will play players if they're good enough. So, there is pressure on us as academy staff and it's a great pressure, we've got to keep producing players, because we know they'll get an opportunity.
“But I reiterate, we're lucky to have resources where we are able to recruit staff and players. We are also lucky to be able to get the best out of those players that we've got in the building from a very young age, and do the best we can with them in order to try and get as many of them as possible ready to play in the Premier League.
“If they don't play in the Premier League, hopefully it is just as many as we can to go on to play professional football. If they don't play professional football, be successful in life, whether that's higher education or employment. So, that's our aim, and it has been quite successful. We've got to keep going with that. It's come a long way in a number of years, and it’s a very exciting time to be at the club.”
Furthermore, John gives us an insight into the role he plays and how to get the best out of not just the players, but the coaches too.
“Alongside the head of coaching, Ian Buckman, we want to promote good decision makers. That's part of what we try and do, but as a coach, you need to be the same. From my point of view, we don't say to all the coaches, 'you've got to play the same system,' they've all got to play with the same principles, but not the same system.
“The reason for that would be, if you've got two good forwards then play two good forwards, if you’ve only got one, then you might only play one, if you've got three good centre-halves, then play three good centre-halves.
“But also, I would encourage the coaches that if they're losing 4-0, 5-0, then you might want to change something. But then I'd like to know the reasoning after why they've changed it.
“It might have worked, it might not have worked, but again, you want to promote good decision making. Likewise, if you're winning 6-0 or 7-0, you want to try and change something and change the challenge so the players benefits.
“You have to keep adapting to making sure that the challenge is right for all the players. We also have different programmes which pose different challenges. For instance, we might play in the Sussex Senior Cup which gives us something different for the under-18s, where they play against club’s first team's, which is brilliant. We play PL 2 (Premier League 2) games, and we play EFL Trophy games, which again, you play against league first team opposition, as well foreign opposition in the internal cup.”