A month ago, 16-year-old Luke Matheson was collecting his GCSE results.
On Wednesday night, the Rochdale defender scored against Manchester United in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford.
It was a memorable moment for the youngster but the celebrations could not last too long – he is back to school on Thursday morning for a psychology test.
“I struck it and it hit the roof of the net and my body just took over,” said Matheson.
“I sprinted to the Dale fans and did a knee slide. I thought I was going to go down the hill. It’s a special, special moment.
“I would have been at school today. I am going in tomorrow to make up for it when we have day off as I have a psychology test. I can’t wait for that. I don’t think I will sleep tonight.
“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.”
Many of Matheson’s friends are United fans, but he himself has a different allegiance.
“I’m a Norwich fan,” he said. “My dad’s from Norwich, he brought me up with Norwich all my life.
“Most of my best mates are United fans. I have not turned my phone on yet. I am dreading it.”
Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy was full of praise.
“Luke is an exceptional guy,” he said. “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.”
League One Rochdale may have gone on to lose the third-round game on penalties, but Matheson’s goal was his first in professional football and capped an incredible 12 months.
Matheson makes his mark
This time last year, Matheson completed his first day as a year 11 pupil by making his debut for Rochdale, coming on as a 13th-minute substitute in a 2-1 win against Bury in the Checkatrade Trophy. He was named man of the match and became the youngest player in Rochdale history at 15 years and 336 days.
Matheson has now made 11 appearances for Rochdale and has been capped at England Under-21 level. He has also reportedly caught the eye of Liverpool and Manchester United in the past.
After his goalscoring exploits on Wednesday night, there could soon be more Premier League scouts at Spotland.
But Matheson wasn’t the only one to shine on a night when a number of youngsters impressed.
Elliott leads the way for youthful Liverpool
There were several excellent performances from Liverpool’s youth in their 2-0 victory over MK Dons, including 16-year-old Harvey Elliott, who became the youngest player to start a competitive match for the club.
Elliott, who joined from Fulham this summer, hit the woodwork twice and set up a great chance for James Milner in a glistening display.
He lined up in attack alongside 19-year-old Rhian Brewster and 18-year-old Curtis Jones, both of whom have been making waves in Liverpool’s academy.
Liverpool-born Jones made his debut in the FA Cup third-round defeat by Wolves last season and was recently named reserve team captain, having also appeared for England’s youth teams.
But it was 17-year-old Dutch defender Ki-Jana Hoever who got on the scoresheet, netting his first senior goal on his second appearance.
Hoever was Liverpool’s previous youngest player when he came on in that loss to Wolves last season. The Reds had to fight off competition from Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea for his signature when his contract expired at Ajax last June.
He joined Liverpool for only £90,000 and helped the Netherlands win the European Under-17 Championship this summer.
Connolly and James catch the eye
Aaron Connolly’s stock continues to rise after another impressive performance from the 19-year-old Brighton striker.
The Seagulls may have been knocked out of the League Cup thanks to a 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa, but the Irish youngster caught the eye and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet as he hit the post at 2-0.
Connolly also went close to scoring against Newcastle in the Premier League at the weekend when a shot was cleared off the line by Fabian Schar.
Connolly has represented Republic of Ireland at U17, U19 and U21 level and has made four appearances for Brighton this season. It could be a big year for the youngster.
He is not the only one making strides.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said it was “just the start” for 19-year-old Reece James following his terrific performance in the 7-1 thrashing of Grimsby Town.
Debutant James helped set up two goals before scoring one himself.
“Reece’s performances on loan last year at Wigan showed the talent he’s got. I think he’s going to be a big player for this club,” said Lampard.
Right-back James has made 12 appearances for England Under-20s and contributed to six goals during his 45 appearances for Wigan.