One look at what Luke Matheson has achieved in the last 18 months and you’d struggle to believe he was just 17 years of age. Having quite literally hopped off the school bus and onto the team bus, to say recent times have been eventful for the teenager would be an understatement.
Luke Matheson is special. He isn’t your average 17-year-old. Many will recognise him as the teenage defender (16 at the time) who scored at Old Trafford to take Manchester United to a penalty shootout in Round Three of the Carabao Cup, or the school boy who has just signed for Premier League side Wolves, but his clear potential on a football pitch isn’t the only thing that makes him special.
In fact, the morning after scoring at Old Trafford he was back at school sitting a psychology test at Trinity Sixth Form in Manchester. An old head on young shoulders, it is Matheson’s desire for continued education that makes him stand out when not on the football pitch.
“My education is something I’m really passionate about," Matheson said, speaking to the BBC earlier this season. The teenager is currently studying for his A-Levels after receiving outstanding GCSE results in the summer.
“If I work really hard in football and my education for the next two years it’ll be more than worth it. I go to college on my days off and I stay for a couple of hours after everyone else and I do a couple of hours after training and after each game. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.”
Matheson’s journey at Rochdale started in 2010, when he was just eight years old. Fast forward eight years and his name was already in the record books. September 2018 saw a 15-year-old Matheson make his Rochdale debut in an EFL Trophy Group Stage tie. Coming on as a substitute, Matheson became Dale’s youngest-ever debutant at 15 years and 336 days of age. He was also awarded Man of the Match for his performance. Not a bad way to kick off your career.
His league debut followed in January 2019, as he came on as a substitute against Fleetwood Town in Sky Bet League One, before going on to represent his country for the first time at England U17 level - a game in which they beat France 3-2.
It’s clear that Matheson was going from strength to strength, and the start of the 2019/20 season saw him make his first league start as Rochdale beat Bolton Wanderers 5-2 in League One. It had already been a whirlwind year for the youngster, but surely not even he could predict what was still to come this season.
On 22 August 2019, he received his GCSE results (five A*s, three As, a B and a C). Not bad for someone who, for the past year, had been juggling first-team football and an education. And, in September 2019, he fulfilled every young lad's dream, scoring in front of 58,000 fans at Old Trafford. As if playing at the Theatre of Dreams as a 16-year-old wasn’t special enough, he stole the headlines as his equaliser took the Carabao Cup tie to a penalty shootout.
His first professional contract followed, and the icing on the cake came in January 2020. One day after passing his driving test, Matheson and his family were celebrating again as he put pen to paper on a life-changing contract with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“It was mental,” Matheson said, speaking to Rochdale’s iFollow Dale.
"On Thursday I passed my driving test and then on Friday I signed for Wolves. It was literally a dream come true to sign for a Premier League club.
"This season, I made my first league start, I scored my first goal, I’ve played at some amazing grounds like Old Trafford and St James’s Park and I scored at Old Trafford too, so I’m really thankful to the staff at Rochdale for allowing me to have that opportunity."
Immediately after signing for Wolves, Matheson returned to Rochdale on loan for the remainder of the season and it is understood that Wolves had no qualms in allowing him to do so, believing it would be the best thing for him and his development at this stage in his career. A boy with Rochdale clearly in his heart, Matheson jumped at the chance.
"To come back here and complete the season here is something that I really wanted to do,” he continued. "Nothing has changed for me, I’m still the same Rochdale player, I’m still the same Luke and I still see myself wanting to train the hardest I possibly can in every session. The Premier League title to my new club doesn't make me see myself any differently."
"Here at Rochdale I’m getting constant opportunities. I sometimes forget that I’m only 17, so to be given opportunities like I have at League One level is something I would never have expected at the start of the season.
"Rochdale will forever be in my heart, it's the only club I’ve ever been at. I’ve been wearing a Rochdale badge over half my life and I’ll always come back here, I’ll bring my kids here to watch them when I’m older - it’s a really special place for me. I can’t thank the people around the football club enough for everything."
Intelligent, eloquent and down to earth. As Matheson prepares for life in the Premier League, one thing is for sure - with an attitude like that, the future is bright.
A whirlwind 18 months for Luke Matheson:
- September 2018 - Debut in the EFL Trophy Group Stage tie - aged 15 years and 336 days, he became Rochdale’s youngest ever debutant. As well as this, Matheson was awarded with the Man of the Match award for his performance.
- January 2019 - Matheson made his league debut coming on as a substitute against Fleetwood Town in Sky Bet League One.
- February 2019 - Represented his country for the first time as England U17s beat France 3-2.
- August 2019 - Matheson made his first league start as Rochdale beat Bolton Wanderers 5-2.
- 22 August 2019 - Received his GCSE results (five A*s, three As, a B and a C)
- September 2019 - Scored his first senior goal in a Carabao Cup Round Three match against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
- October 2019 - Signed his first professional contract
- January 2020 - Passed his driving test
- January 2020 - Signed for Premier League side Wolves