THERE'S no denying that Radio One's Scott Mills has had his fair share of lucky breaks.

But it has taken the Southampton born DJ, who took over Sarah Cox's primetime afternoon slot on Radio One earlier this month, a lot more than good fortune to get to where he is today.

Scott shot to national fame in 1998 when, on his fourth day on the Early Morning Breakfast Show on Radio One, Zoe Ball fell sick and he found himself taking over the Breakfast Show and having to do a mammoth five-hour stint on air.

But his apparent overnight (or over-morning) success was grounded in years of hard work and a lifetime of dedication to his dream of becoming a DJ.

"All my family tell me that since I was really small I just wanted to play records," says Scott, who was brought up in Eastleigh and Chandler's Ford.

"I'd edge towards the hi-fi at all times. It's one of my earliest memories - I've never, ever wanted to do anything else.

"When I was a kid the commercial radio stations in Southampton weren't really happening so Radio One was the only place you could hear new music so it really was a dream of mine to work on Radio One, probably from the age of about eight. I liked the sound of the whole station and I wanted to be part of it - it sounded big and exciting.

"I used to make tapes of myself pretending to be a DJ - I was probably pretending to be on Radio One, which is quite scary!" he adds.

Scott didn't have to wait too long for his dream to begin to come true. He came to the Southern Daily Echo when he was 15 on work experience while doing his GCSEs at Crestwood Community School in Eastleigh and made a contact at Radio Solent while he was here. He wrote to them to ask if he could go in and get some experience at the station and while he was at it, decided to write to Power FM as well.

"Power FM invited me in for a while, just making tea and being a helper and then the opportunity came up about six months after that for me to do a demo tape. I was really nervous but I just sat down in a studio and thought, 'well, I might as well give it a go,' and the boss was fairly impressed by it," he explains.

"I was probably awful but it was at the stage when lots of the DJs were about to go on holiday and they needed someone to fill in!

"I covered shows for people when they were off and I think it was about a year down the line that they gave me my own show in the middle of the night, so you get the chance to make mistakes, find out what works and what doesn't. It was really good fun.

"When you're at school and you say that you want to be a radio presenter, everyone just laughs, then literally a few months later I was doing it!"

But it wasn't all glamour for Scott. Although his dream of becoming a DJ had come true, he spent years working late-night 'graveyard' shifts, first on Power FM and later in Bristol and Manchester and then at Radio One.

"I really don't know how I coped," he says of his time as a late-night DJ.

"I recently covered the Radio One Breakfast Show for Chris Moyles for a few weeks and I was getting up at five. It made me wonder how I managed to do that before - getting up at three o'clock in the morning for five years - but you just do. If it's your job you've got to do it but you feel like you've got jet lag all the time - it's quite strange."

The demands of his work mean that Scott has to live in London - where he shares his Notting Hill flat with a friend - but his heart lies in his home city of Southampton and he comes back regularly to see his friends and family and to enjoy a night out - his preferred haunts include The Edge nightclub and bars The Orange Rooms and Mono.

"Southampton's where I started my whole career and it's the place that I know the best so I like coming home, I really do," he enthuses.

"It is different to bigger cities because, let's face it, if I was a Londoner, what radio station would have had me in at 15? So it's much more community-based and there's nothing wrong with that. I like it that it's only an hour on the train from London but it's so different.

"You get that feeling when you come home of just being glad to be there. I just think it's a really nice city. I've always thought that but I'm biased I suppose. I'm actually quite proud of it. "

Listen to Scott Mills on weekdays from 3pm to 5.45pm on Radio 1 97-99FM.