Matheson is the wise head on young shoulders who burst onto the scene... now he's trying to find his feet at Ipswich
- Credit: PA/WWFC
Ipswich Town have signed Luke Matheson on loan from Wolves until the end of the season. Andy Warren looks at what he could bring to the Blues.
Starting in style
It’s fair to say very few outside of Rochdale knew too much about Luke Matheson prior to September 25, 2019.
He was still only 16-years-old when he arrived at the back post to slam the ball into the net at a packed Old Trafford, helping his side take Manchester United to penalties in the Carabao Cup and changing the teenager’s life forever.
The young right-back had already begun to make his mark by then, becoming Rochdale’s youngest-ever player at 15 years and 355 days when he made his debut in the EFL Trophy against Bury the previous year. He was man of the match.
The game at Old Trafford was his 14th in the Rochdale first-team and, from that moment on, it felt he was on the road to bigger things.
“I’ve watched that video back so many times and it still gives me goosebumps,” he said. “Just going on the coach, not even being involved, was enough for me. But to start at Old Trafford, and then to score… that was just something special.”
He was back at school the following morning and was mobbed in the playground by classmates, but not before impressing off the pitch, as well as on it. Most clubs would shield young players such as Matheson from the media on such a big night – but not Rochdale. The teenager sat in the famed Old Trafford press room after the game and told his story to the nation with an eloquence well beyond his tender years.
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Part of the pack
From that point on, his days at Spotland were always likely to be numbered. He was always heading for bigger and better things.
But not before impressing for Dale as Ipswich won 1-0 in Greater Manchester just six weeks after his big night at Old Trafford, looking after Alan Judge and Luke Garbutt for the majority for the game.
Just a few months later he was on the move, joining Wolves for a fee of £1million in January 2020 as the Premier League side snapped up one of the hottest properties in the lower leagues.
He remained at Rochdale on loan for the remainder of the season before beginning his Wolves career for real this summer. It’s been slow progress, with injuries making pre-season difficult and restricting him to just one substitute appearance in the EFL Trophy so far.
Discussing his ankle injury and his return in the Under 23s in September , he said: “It was one of those freak injuries in training. I went to block a cross and landed awkwardly on my ankle, so it was just one of those freak things that no-one could do anything about.
“Finally, to get back out onto the pitch was amazing. I’ve been around the guys for two months now, so to finally be able to have some sort of impact on the pitch felt great.
“They’ve been so supportive of me. I thank the medical staff for being amazing with me and being able to get me back out as soon as possible, and it felt great to get the 75/80 minutes under my belt.”
Now Ipswich have been trusted to help him progress over the next four months in a move which looks likely to benefit all parties.
Matheson has enjoyed a fast start to his career but needs regular games if he's to realise his potential.
"I was doing some extra work in the gym at about half four and I got a call from the Wolves loans manager who said I needed to get over to the first-team building straight away," Matheson said, when describing how his move to Ipswich came about.
"Within half an hour I was on the phone to Paul Lambert and it felt like the right opportunity for me.
"I'm really happy to be joining this club. I can't wait to get started because this feels like a really good move for me.
"It was a no brainer before I got on the phone, but speaking to the manager made me think 'yes, I want to do this'.
"I'm really looking forward to this and I want to help the team. Playing first-team football will be brilliant and I'm excited to be part of the first-team environment.
"Paul really liked my enthusiasm and I will work really hard for this team. I run a lot and I'll give it my all for the club."
Where he fits in
Ipswich are short at right-back, especially given the fact Kane Vincent-Young remains injured and Janoi Donacien has been loaned to Fleetwood.
That leaves just 35-year-old Chambers, heading into an extremely congested period of football which sees Town play 14 games in just 50 days.
It’s also fair to say Town haven’t been getting enough from the full-back areas of late, with neither Chambers nor Ward able to get forward as often as the veterans were able to during the opening weeks of the season.
Matheson can help there, even if a little patience is required. He’s only 18, remember. He’s comfortable on the ball, a solid defender and can move up the field with the ball at his feet.
His arrival could even allow Chambers to move inside and partner either Luke Woolfenden or Mark McGuinness, where an experienced head looks to be needed.
If, and it’s a big if, Vincent-Young can return in the coming weeks, could we see the full-back switch to left back where he impressed for Colchester and leave Matheson at right-back?
One to think about.
A wise head on young shoulders
Matheson is still only 18 but, despite the youthful look and bountiful locks, he’s shown maturity beyond his years during what has been a whirlwind rise.
The year 2019 was particularly hectic as he first made his League One debut, then earned a first England U17 cap before then completing his GCSEs. He got five A*s, three A, a B and a C.
Then came that goal at Old Trafford before passing his driving test and then making a million-pound move to Wolves in January 2020.
Education remains important to him: “I love education,” he said. “I just like finding and figuring things out.” Having now completed his A-levels he has discussed studying for a degree with the Open University in the future.
Senior figures at Wolves were impressed with how he spoke, despite his tender years, with one quoted as saying: “He had the mentality of a 30-year-old not a teenager — you don’t come across many players like him.”
The elephant in the room
Yes, Matheson is from a family of Norwich City fans.
"I'm a Norwich fan," he said, after scoring at Old Trafford. "My dad's from Norwich, he brought me up with Norwich all my life.”
But we’re not talking about a dyed in the wool Canary, here. Football has dominated Matheson’s young life to date, but it’s his own game which has taken centre stage rather than an infatuation with yellow and green.
He was born in Manchester, raised in Rochdale’s academy and was playing in the professional game by the time he was 15-years-old.
Like many children he followed his father’s team but Matheson is his own man now and any previous ties to Norwich are not going to be an issue now he’s at Portman Road.