Mathe­son re­turns to school with tales of Old Traf­ford

Rochdale’s 16-year-old goalscorer was happy to be back in the class­room, he tells Luke Ed­wards

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

Score a stun­ning goal against Manchester United on Wed­nes­day, sit a psy­chol­ogy exam on Thurs­day, re­turn to train­ing on Fri­day, play against Wy­combe Wan­der­ers on Saturday and chill on Sun­day. It will wrap up a spe­cial seven days for Rochdale’s Luke Mathe­son.

While thanks must go to Craig David for the in­spi­ra­tion for the above, Mathe­son had his school, Trin­ity Church of Eng­land High School in Hulme, to thank for giv­ing him the day off ahead of his hero­ics at Old Traf­ford on Wed­nes­day night.

Rochdale’s teenage sen­sa­tion was back be­hind a desk this morn­ing, to con­tinue his six­th­form stud­ies where he is tak­ing three A-lev­els – psy­chol­ogy, his­tory and so­ci­ol­ogy.

Whether he makes it to univer­sity re­mains to be seen, but even af­ter his mag­i­cal mo­ment on Wed­nes­day, the 16-year-old was stress­ing how im­por­tant his education is to his fu­ture.

Mathe­son was al­ready the youngest player to make the first team in Rochdale’s his­tory but has now se­cured a spe­cial place in club folk­lore with his vol­ley against United, which took the Carabao Cup tie to a penalty shoot-out.

But he was not al­lowed the morn­ing off to re­cover by the school, which is just 4½ miles from Old Traf­ford.

“I would have been at school on the day of the game, but they gave me the day off,” Mathe­son said. “I am go­ing in on Thurs­day to make up for it when we [Rochdale] have a day off. I have a psy­chol­ogy test. I can’t wait for that.”

Not many 16-year-olds would ut­ter that fi­nal sen­tence, but Mathe­son is not your usual teenager. “Education is some­thing I am very fond of,” he said. “I love it. Rochdale and the school have been so sup­port­ive of me. I love learn­ing. It is what I want to do.

“Foot­ball is not a guar­an­tee. You never know what will hap­pen. You could be the best player in the world, but any­thing is pos­si­ble. I want to have that back-up plan, just in case.

“It is what I do. I go in once a week and try to go in more if pos­si­ble, de­pend­ing on train­ing. It is what I have done for 10 years of my life. It is no dif­fer­ent. I just play foot­ball a bit more now.

“They’re just so sup­port­ive. I couldn’t ask for them to do any more. Trin­ity have ac­tu­ally sort of made their timetable around me to ac­com­mo­date what I want to do. Rochdale have al­lowed me to do the A-lev­els, so I just can­not thank them enough for sup­port­ing me for what I have cho­sen to do.”

Born in Oc­to­ber 2002, Mathe­son has been at his home­town club since he was nine and made his se­nior de­but against Bury in the EFL Tro­phy last sea­son at the age of 15 and 336 days.

Af­ter a hand­ful more ap­pear­ances in that com­pe­ti­tion, he also made three sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ances in League One last sea­son and got his first league start against Sun­der­land last month.

An Eng­land Un­der-17 in­ter­na­tional, he started the 3-2 win over France in Fe­bru­ary and is highly rated at St George’s Park, de­spite com­ing through the academy sys­tem at a lower-league club.

There will be plenty of scouts from Premier League and Cham­pi­onship sides keep­ing an eye on his progress over the next

‘Foot­ball is not a guar­an­tee. You never know what will hap­pen. I want a back-up plan’

few weeks, but Mathe­son is not get­ting overex­cited.

“I am only 16,” he said. “You never know. Touch wood, hope­fully I’ll have a long play­ing ca­reer. Who is that for? I don’t know. I am look­ing for­ward to what the fu­ture holds.

“It’s a spe­cial mo­ment. A dream come true for any­one. I am sure ev­ery­body dreams of scor­ing at a sta­dium like Old Traf­ford. It’s a his­toric place. But I’ll be back in school in the morn­ing. I’ll prob­a­bly have some sort of lie in, but I don’t think I’ll sleep much.

“The goal? I struck it and it hit the roof of the net and my body just took over. I sprinted to the Dale fans and did a knee slide. I thought I was go­ing to go down the hill. That is a spe­cial mo­ment for me.

“It will be nice when ev­ery­one comes up to me at school and says, ‘You scored against United.’ Most of my best mates are United fans, but me, I’m a yel­low. I’m a Nor­wich fan. My dad’s from Nor­wich and he brought me up with Nor­wich all my life. No one ever ex­pects to hear that.”

No or­di­nary teenager: Luke Mathe­son cel­e­brates scor­ing for Rochdale against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup at Old Traf­ford (above), and out­side his school af­ter col­lect­ing his GCSE re­sults last month (below)

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