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DT38 EXCLUSIVE: A Few Minutes With Josh Cullen on Iniesta, Winning the Dylan Tombides Award & That Tooth

Since launching in 2015, DT38 Foundation has gone from strength to strength and now benefits from the support of more than 50 Ambassadors.

Many of them are footballers plying their trade at the highest levels.

Now on loan at Charlton Athletic following a Premier League debut and cup appearances for West Ham United, new DT38 Ambassador Josh Cullen is set for stardom.

The central midfielder was the first ever recipient of the Dylan Tombides Award in 2015 as the most promising Academy player at West Ham United.

Since then he’s played for the Irons against the likes Liverpool and FC Astra Giurgiu in the 2015/16 Europa League qualifying campaign.

Around his development in claret and blue colours, Cullen has also enjoyed successful spells on loan at Bradford City and Bolton Wanderers prior to his latest foray with The Addicks.

We had a chat with the 22-year-old to find out a bit more about the man, his ambitions and life as a pro footballer.

We kicked off by asking him what it meant to clinch the Dylan Tombides Award at West Ham United, some four years ago.

“It was a fantastic achievement for me and I was very proud to win the award,” he revealed.

“To be recognised for my performances and hard work over the season was great. 

“But it was made even more special by being the first player to receive the newly named Dylan Tombides Award, in memory of Dylan. 

“The trophy sits proudly in my bedroom and the memory of winning the award will stay with me forever.”

Football is the “people’s game” and always will be. Pundits often talk up the importance of crowd support during a match.

But does it really make a difference who sings what when the ball is at your feet? We asked Josh for the truth.

“It is quite surreal to be honest. 

“I remember being a fan and singing the names of players when i was growing up so it is very strange when the roles have reversed and people are singing my name. 

“It may sound silly but it really does give you a lift of energy on the pitch and encourages you to be confident and show the fans what you can do. 

“When the fans are behind you it makes you so determined to deliver and win for them to repay them for the brilliant support they are giving you personally and to the team.”

A lack of determination and passion is never something that could be levelled at Josh Cullen.

On January 7, 2018, in an FA Cup third round tie for the Hammers against Sherwsbury Town, Josh lost a tooth going in for a brave challenge with Abu Agogo.

He may have been “gappy” for the rest of the game, but he carried on as if nothing had happened.

And what exactly happened to the tooth?

“When I first saw my tooth come flying out of my mouth the first emotion was pure shock at what had happened!” he explained.

“Then the blood started pouring from my mouth and I thought ‘oh this isn’t good’. 

“The doctor and physio were great and thankfully managed to save my tooth so it is all back in place now after a bit of root canal treatment. 

“Adrenalin and the determination to fight for the win were the things that made me carry on. 

“The will to win and put my body on the line for the team outweighed the discomfort and shock of losing my tooth so I just couldn’t wait to get back on the pitch and try to win the game.”

Elite sports men and women often claim to draw inspiration from others who have achieved greatness in their field.

But who does the Republic of Ireland U21 international look up to?

“I wouldn’t say I just have one footballing hero but the two players I grew up idolising was the pairing of Xavi and Iniesta for Barcelona and Spain. 

“The technique and the intelligence they played the game with was unbelievable and it was a pleasure to watch and try to learn from them in the great teams they played in. 

“Also for other reasons a mention has to go to my Dad, he was the first person to teach me the basics of football and practice with me for hours on end in the garden and over the park. 

“He was the person who made me fall in love with football and therefore he would go down as one of my footballing heroes!”.

Family plays a huge role in Josh’s life but what else does the West Ham Academy graduate get up to away from the game? We asked him to spill the beans.

He said: “I like to spend time with my girlfriend, friends and family. 

“Nothing too exciting or extravagant to be honest. 

“I enjoy eating in nice restaurants, occasionally going to the cinema and generally just chilling out enjoying good company. 

“I don’t mind a game of Fortnite either!”

As for the future, Josh has plans and he intends to fulfil them.

“My ambition for the season ahead is to keep improving day by day with hard work on the training pitch and putting what I am working on in to practice on a match day,” he said.

“Hopefully this will then be able to show people what I can do whilst gaining valuable experience out on loan. 

“Then when I return to West Ham I want to fight for a spot in the starting eleven and try to become a key part of the team.

He added: “I think as a footballer you have personal ambitions and then collective ambitions as a team. 

“Personal ambitions would include becoming a regular and well known starter in the Premier League as well as captain my club and country. 

“Collective ambitions would be to win trophies and reach major tournaments on the international stage. 

“I think all of these ambitions, if they can be reached, would be something that when my footballing career is done I can look back on and be very proud of.”

In the UK alone around 2,300 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year and IF caught early the survival rate is around 98 per cent.

Josh shared with us his message about the importance of men checking their testicles regularly for any signs of the disease.

He said: “The facts show that testicular cancer affects a lot of men. 

“Guys, please make sure you check yourselves on a regular basis because catching it early is so important. 

“I am proud to be an Ambassador of DT38 and the charity has lots of information about how to check yourselves on their website so please make sure you take a look at it.”

To find out more about how to check for testicular cancer click here