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Within a matter of months Luke Matheson has swapped GCSEs for scoring at Old Trafford.
The 16-year-old Rochdale defender grabbed his side’s equaliser against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, but has to swap goals for grades already as he has a school exam on Thursday.
He said: "I'm going in tomorrow to make up for it when we've got a day off. Got a psychology exam, so can't wait for that! My education is something I'm very fond of it and I love it. And Rochdale and the school have been so supportive of me with all that, so I love learning.
Currently in the first year of his A-Levels, Matheson won’t have to go far for his exam as Trinity C of E High School, where he studies, is in Fallowfield, just under five miles from Old Trafford.
Matheson’s goal cancelled out Mason Greenwood’s opener 15 minutes from time, with his side eventually going out on penalties. Despite the loss, the League One team performed brilliantly to ensure it was a nervy night for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men who squeezed through to a last-16 tie with Chelsea.
On the goal, he said: "I just struck it, seen it hit the roof of the net and then my body took over. Just sprinted to the Dale fans, hit top speed and then decided to knee slide. I thought I was going to go down the hill at one point!"
"I don't think you actually can in words. But it's a special, special night for me, the players, the coaching staff, the fans. I don't think I can sum it up in words, the feeling, the celebration in the dressing room after was surreal. Something I've never experienced before and I don't think I'll ever experience again.”
Having celebrated in front of the Rochdale fans, he can relive the moment with his United supporting friends at school, whereas Matheson is a Norwich fan, like his dad, despite growing up in Manchester.
"It's gonna be nice, everyone coming up to me [at school] and saying, 'ah, you scored against United,' said Matheson. “Most of my best mates are United fans, I've not turned my phone on yet, I'm kind of dreading it! I don't know what tomorrow will be like, I think I'm going to go in a little bit later so I can get some rest.”
One person who’s been particularly impressed with the teenage talent is his boss, Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy. He said: "Luke is an exceptional guy. He is one player you would have no problems staying grounded and true to his family. His GCSE results were incredible and mirror his football. We ignore his age really. We treat him as a normal player."
While his 14-game professional career is just beginning to blossom, there’s clearly a long way to go, and by the sounds of things Matheson isn’t taking anything for granted.
"It's what I want to do, because football's not a guarantee, you never know what could happen. You could be the best player in the world but anything's possible and it's best to have that back-up plan just in case."
“It doesn’t really make a difference to me personally as long as I am making them happy and putting on performances they want to see, that’s all I can really ask for.
“You know, I am only 16. You never know. Touch wood, hopefully I’ll have a long playing career.
“Who that’s (playing) for, I don’t know. I am looking forward to what the future holds.”
Matheson wasn’t the only teenager to make his mark. Greenwood is just 17 and found the back of the net for the second United home game in a row.
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