Matheson: United Goal the Highlight of My Career So Far
Friday, 5th Feb 2021 12:29
Baby-faced Luke Matheson, who has joined Town on loan from Wolves until the end of the season, has reflected on his meteoric rise to fame – a success story that saw him become something of an overnight sensation.
Matheson only turned 18 on October 3rd last year and was Rochdale’s youngest-ever player when he made his debut aged 15 years and 336 days on September 4th 2018 in an EFL Trophy home tie against local rivals Bury, which resulted in a 2-1 win and the youngster picking up the Man of the Match award.
He recalled: “It was the very first day I started year 11. I went into school in the morning obviously knowing I was going to be on the bench that night. I sat through a whole day of GCSE lessons. Then I came on as a substitute in the 13th minute because of an injury.”
Matheson made a further three EFL Trophy appearances before making his English Football League debut as a half-time substitute in a 1-1 draw with Fleetwood at Spotland, then he had two more outings off the bench before the 2018/19 campaign drew to a close.
It was in September 2019 that he really made the headlines, when Rochdale went to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the Carabao Cup. He was 16, in the starting line-up and just six minutes after Mason Greenwood opened the scoring for United he popped up with a far-post equaliser.
The tie was decided by a penalty shoot-out – 5-3 in the home side’s favour – but life was never quite the same again for the youngster.
He grinned: “So far that has been the highlight of my career and I still get goosebumps when I watch that goal.
“It was a special occasion for me because it was the first game my mum had come to watch in four and a half years. There is just something about that night that is so, so special to me.
“I was back in school the next day for a psychology test and I’ll admit it wasn’t my best work. I’d only got to bed at something like half-five that morning and I was up at seven for school. I think the teacher let me off.”
Asked about the attention he received, Matheson added: “It was crazy. My mum and dad – they’re old and everything – aren’t great on social media but when I made my debut for Rochdale at 15 I was showing my sister, Hannah, that I’d gained about 600 followers.
“I was over the moon with that but I’ve got a screenshot of my Instagram account from before the United game and I’m on about 2,000 followers.
“After it I was on about 16, 17,000 – every time I refreshed it the numbers went up. I was sitting there in the canteen at lunch time with my college mates just refreshing – it was crazy.”
Scoring at Old Trafford at such a young age thrust Matheson into the national spotlight but he tried to stay focused on his football at Rochdale as speculation mounted that he would soon be making a move to one of the many top-flight clubs monitoring his progress.
“To be honest that wasn’t really something that I was focused on,” he explained. “I still had Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday in League One to focus on.
“I let my agent take care of all that business, if you like, and there wasn’t really too much concrete interest that I was aware of. I just told him not to bother telling me unless there was some genuine interest from a club.
“It was a crazy week when Wolves came in for me and it was quite funny actually. On the 30th January I didn’t know anything.
“My dad and my agent had known for a few weeks that there was interest from Wolves but they refrained from telling me because of the Rochdale games I had to focus on.
“I had my driving test on the 30th as well so I came home absolutely buzzing that I’d passed. We were sitting there celebrating and then I had the call to tell me that Wolves had made a formal offer. The following day we were going there to sign so it was quite an eventful few days for me.
“I’ve moved quite a bit over the last year or so but I’m very lucky that my mum and dad have been with me quite a lot. They’ve been amazing.
“My mum stayed with me for a little bit in Wolverhampton, while my dad was at home with my sister, who is still doing her A-levels and needs taking care of, bless her soul.
“So my parents have been back and forth, looking after me and helping me with the cooking and cleaning. My days get very busy with my education on top of my football so they are making sure I’m not too stressed, just helping out with the everyday stuff if that makes sense.”
Despite being a full-time footballer, Matheson is continuing his education and revealed: “I’m still doing my A-levels and last Friday I sat my first paper for sociology. I’m also doing psychology and then, depending on how I am feeling, I may do a history A-level.
“At the start it was very hard to balance it all with my football. I went into college when I could and if we finished training earlier.
“I couldn’t drive then so it was taking me two and a half hours to get to training and that hindered my education. I was getting home at half-five, six o’clock every evening.
“I was fortunate that I had a great group of friends and we’d go to the library every day, Monday to Friday. We’d be in there from six o’clock to 10 o’clock just laughing, joking and getting our work done. But when I passed my driving test it made things so much easier.
“If we finished training at, say, one o’clock in the afternoon I’d be in college for two o’clock. That would give me two or two and a half hours of actual contact with teachers.
“When the pandemic came along it made it a lot more difficult but I now have a tutor called Louise. I want to give her a massive shout-out because she has been a life-saver and I’m so thankful to her.
“The balance is something I struggled with at the start but I’ve definitely managed to improve it as time has gone on.”
With a story like his it would be easy to assume that Matheson was his school’s best player but he laughed as he remembered his frustration at never actually being crowned Footballer of the Year in his time attending Trinity Church of England High School in Hulme, Manchester.
He recalled: “It’s a funny thing actually. Every year, from years seven to 11, we had a sports awards ceremony. My favourite PE teacher was Miss Barrett and the one and only thing I had against her was that I never won Footballer of the Year in the whole time I was at high school.
“In year nine I started training with the first team at Rochdale, in year 10 I was in the first-team squad and in year 11 I made my first team debut and my England U17 debut – but I didn’t win Footballer of the Year at my school. I’ll never forgive her for that!”
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