Teenager Liam McCarron signs his first senior contract ahead of kick off today and he admitted this week that his head is still spinning following what has been an unbelievable few months.
With his league debut under his belt, and a minimum 18-month deal agreed, he heads into the final eight months of his scholarship knowing that his immediate future is well and truly sorted.
“It hasn’t sunk in at all yet,” he admitted. “It was a big shock when I got told that the contract as there, but it’s a great feeling and I’m letting it all sink in now.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to push on from here.”
“Being honest, it was all just a massive shock,” he reiterated. “I was asked to come to the club for a meeting and it was then that I was told that they were going to offer me a contract.
“My head was all over the place, and it still is now, but it’s fantastic that it’s happened.”
Present at the meeting where the contract offer was tabled was Liam’s dad who, as you might imagine, was just as lost for words as his son was as they walked out of the building.
“My family are over the moon and I don’t think it’s sunk in for them either,” he told us. “My dad was with me at the meeting and we just didn’t know what to say to each other afterwards.
“There are no words for it really.”
The 17-year old, born in Preston, moved up north with his family as a toddler but was quickly involved in local football in the ‘nappy squad’ – a club for young footballers which has included the likes of Danny Grainger and Adam Collin in its ranks in recent years.
“The club was run by Irwin Wallace and he was a good coach who pushed us a lot,” he told us. “I started playing Sunday football before signing for a team in Carlisle.
“I played for them for a few years before I was asked to go to a trial with Carlisle United. I’ve been with the Academy since the under-14 level now.
“Playing in the under-18 side has been great and, with the way things have been going, I thought I would maybe get onto the bench around Christmas time, or something like that. It’s come early and it’s been a great experience.”
Having trained with the first team regularly since the summer, and been involved with the squad for both home and away games, we wondered if he’d had any idea that the contract offer would come so soon after his first step up had been made.
“When I started training with the first team more, and I was getting into the squad, I did think that this could be my time,” he said. “I knew it was putting me in with a good shout of getting a contract at the end of the season, but I didn’t think it was going to happen this quickly.
“It’s a whole different level. The older lads are teaching me a lot of the things I still need to learn in the game and that’s brilliant. They all tell me to relax and just to do what I do, and I think you always have to believe in yourself. That’s been a big part of why I’m where I am now.”
The biggest moment on any player’s career is the moment he takes to the pitch for the first time for his club, and that moment came for the young winger when he replaced Ashley Nadesan in the 83rd minute of the September home game against Morecambe.
“I was excited and nervous when I got the call to get ready,” he commented. “I really wanted to get my first touches right and make a good impression. I was telling myself to do things right and not to mess up.
“I just wanted it all to go to plan and for the fans to get behind me. I was told to get out there and do what I usually do by the manager, which was to keep the ball and run at players.
“He’s made sure there’s no pressure and he’s told me to go and do what I do at youth level. It’s obviously different because the tempo is quicker, and stuff like that, so he’s told me to keep things simple and to get into the game. All of the coaches have been right behind me, so that’s been good.”
“The other youth lads were buzzing for me,” he continued. “They were all filming it on their phones and stuff like that, and there’s been some joking about it as well.
“They want me to do well and it’s the same if anyone else got the chance, we’d all want him to do well as well.”
The very last attack of that game saw United break, with Shrimps stopper Barry Roche stranded in the Carlisle penalty area as he’d gone forward to do his bit at a set piece. Jamie Devitt pulled wide the ball, and McCarron was left all alone with a 40-yard gap between him and the target.
“I saw him get the ball and I was thinking ‘please just pass it over’ because there was a chance for me to get my first goal,” he said. “I was screaming as loud as I could, but it was just one of those things.
“We’ve had a laugh about it since and hopefully there’ll be more and more chances to come.”
As for what comes next, he told us: “I’ve been told to keep pushing on and hopefully I’ll get to a point where I’m starting in the first team. I want to be on the bench week in and week out, or even getting more minutes.
“Everybody keeps saying the hard work starts now. I’ve got the deal, so I can relax over that, but I know I’ve still got to keep pushing. Eventually I want to be one of the main players who is helping the club win games every week. It would be great to be one of the club’s top players.”