Tears, pride and hopes of a top career for Canaries fan Luke after goal which gave United an almighty scare
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
He’s a Norwich City supporter who scored against Manchester United as a 16-year-old this season, so David Freezer thought it was about time we found out more about Rochdale starlet Luke Matheson
Norwich City fan Luke Matheson can give the Canaries precise advice on how to score against Manchester United - after launching his career with a League Cup equaliser at Old Trafford earlier this season.
The teen - who has since turned 17 - drew surprised looks from journalists after Rochdale came agonisingly close to upsetting United last month, with Matheson scoring a fine equaliser only for the Premier League hosts to escape with a 6-5 shoot-out win.
The right-back was the man of the hour though, only to reveal he was not a fan of the Red Devils, or Manchester City, but Norwich.
That's thanks to his father, Rob, who grew up in King's Lynn and was a regular at Carrow Road as a youngster before his work as a teacher took him to Manchester 20 years ago. With his parents, Shirley and Ian Matheson, still living in west Norfolk, Rob made sure those yellow and green instincts were passed on.
"His first game was Dion Dublin and Darren Huckerby's last game at Sheffield Wednesday (a 4-1 loss in 2008), that's always stuck in my mind because Luke's first game was their last one," Matheson explains. "Then we went to Stockport and Oldham when Norwich were in League One, that was quite handy when they were in League One, living around here.
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"The last time in the Premier League we got tickets at both City and United. We went to City just to admire Kevin De Bruyne and then we lost 2-1 right at the end. Then of course at United we sat in the away end - and they only went and won!
"That was Alex Tettey's goal and we did go to the play-off final as well. He's been to quite a few games but he's never been to a game at Carrow Road though."
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A trip to Peterborough earlier this season allowed Luke and his dad to visit family in Norfolk, with Nanny Shirley going to the game in a wheelchair, only for the right-back to remain on the bench.
It was very different 10 days later when Matheson started at Old Trafford though, leaving his family to be mobbed by thrilled Dale fans after his equaliser in the 76th minute, volleying in a looping cross after reacting quickest to burst into the box, smashing the ball into the ground and past Argentina international keeper Sergio Romero.
"When it comes across, it's only after that you realise that Luke has scored. In the moment his mum was saying 'is that Luke?!' - and it just exploded," explained proud dad, Rob, 54.
"There were about 7,000 Rochdale fans and they were superb. I was of a view when it got to half-time at 0-0, that we'd done okay, because you always think you're going to get turned over. I've followed Norwich for so many years that it'll be 2-0 up in the 94th minute and I'll say to Luke 'there's still time'.
"His sister (Hannah), who is in the school year below, just started crying. His mum (Roz) was crying, I think I had a tear, and the people around us knew who we were, so they were hugging us and Roz went up and down the aisle.
"It was just unbelievable, we've played it back so many times, you just can't make it up."
The youngster still goes into sixth-form one day a week as he studies for his A-Levels and is being eased into the professional game by Rochdale, starting seven of their 20 games so far this season - recently missing a spell of club action while with the England Under-18s, winning his first two caps.
Despite his success, family and friends are keeping his feet on the ground, with mates often picking him last when it came to choosing teams when he was in year 11 at school and his dad jokingly telling him that the goal celebration video filmed for social media by Dale wouldn't be needed.
"He's very well grounded," Rob added. "I'll just say to him 'you shinned it into the ground, mate, got a lucky bounce!' - but I do have to concede a bit of ground and admit it was a special goal.
"I think the thing was as well, how he came across afterwards, I'm as proud of that - because that's him as a human being. How he can articulate his point and all the interviews that he's done, he was 16 and he's got journalists in front of him.
"Someone kept asking him what it's going to be like when he goes back into school and he's really pushing him, but he plays it off.
"Then someone says are you a blue or a red, and he said he was a yellow, and that was the end because whoever was in the room wasn't expecting that answer."
So, would the full-back be keen to play for the club he supports, should the Canaries show an interest in the future?
"You'd love him to play for Norwich, wouldn't you, but it's what opportunities come along," the Rochdale prospect's father concluded. "One thing he has realised is that it's a big difference when you're involved in it to being a fan.
"If you can plan Luke's career then he'd stay two years at Rochdale, then - hindsight's a wonderful thing isn't it - then, yeah, you'd love him to play for Norwich in the Premier League.
"But it's whether it's the right move at the right time, you can't plan, and Rochdale fans obviously want him to stay here and they will want him to stay for the next 10 years because that's their club.
"But that would be great if he turned out for Norwich, having never been there, but whether that's the right move one day then who knows? It's who else comes knocking isn't it - Real Madrid, Barcelona, you never know?!"
Rochdale currently sit 12th in League One and have former Canaries forwards Ian Henderson and Aaron Wilbraham in their ranks, with Matheson hoping to get some game time at Oxford today, having been an unused substitute during a 2-0 home win over MK Dons on Tuesday.
"They're amazing, he's getting opportunities," Matheson added of his son's current club. "Because of the club they are and the finances, they have to rely on their youth policy and they can provide an opportunity.
"They stand by that and Luke's not the youngest player to have played for them now, someone came on for the last 10 minutes recently who was 15!"
There is another Norwich link as well, with City signing midfielder Daniel Adshead from Dale this summer in a deal reportedly worth an initial £300,000, who has since progressed into the England U19 squad, scoring on his debut at that level.
"Luke used to play with Dan, we used to give lifts to Dan because they sort of lived on route," Rob added. "So his dad would take Luke and sometimes I'd take Dan, just to save the driving, because it's a bit of a commitment really.
"He's a nice lad, Dan, got a lot of time for him and really good on the ball - he will be a good player."
- Matheson's goal at Old Trafford can be watched in the video above