BEHIND the wide-eyed wonder, there is a real sense of relief on Luke Matheson’s face as he prepares to start his football journey all over again.

Propelled on to the scene by a Carabao Cup goal for Rochdale against Manchester United aged 16 and tipped for stardom when a £1million move to Premier League Wolves materialised a matter of months later, 15 minutes as a substitute in the EFL Trophy in front of fewer than 3,000 fans on Tuesday night probably shouldn’t have meant that much. But it did.

Over the coming weeks and months plenty of young players will be making their debut in the much-maligned competition that provided Wanderers with a moment in the Wembley sun last season - not many will have a richer backstory than Matheson, who turns 21 next month, and even fewer will be able to enunciate their feelings in quite the same way.

The last few years have dealt the youngster a catalogue of injuries and growing pains, some mixed loan spells and a lack of progression which prompted Wolves to release him at the end of last season. But Matheson is not looking for anyone to blame, rather he is excited by the prospect of a fresh start with Bolton’s B Team, away from the headlines and attention, on the training grounds at Lostock.

“I am not going to sit here and say it didn’t work out at Wolves because of an injury because that would be me lying to myself and lying to other people,” he told The Bolton News.

“It wasn’t one thing. Yes, when you get two season-ending injuries it is going to play a part in your development but I can’t say that is the sole reason or that it is why I didn’t progress the way I probably should have done.

“I am here now and it is almost like I have pressed reset on everything. I am more than happy. I feel like I don’t have an ego and I am not offended that I am playing in the B Team, if that makes sense, I am enjoying football and I want to play games.

“I can’t say it was injury, this, that or the other that is why things didn’t work out with Wolves. I had various loans, some were better than others, etc, etc.

“Football is just a mad, mad game and I just want to continue playing and enjoying it.”

Josh Dacres-Cogley has filled the right wing-back berth impressively in the first month of the season, stepping into the sizeable hole left by last season’s player of the year, Liverpool loanee Conor Bradley.

And while the likes of Gethin Jones and Randell Williams are flexible enough to cover, some fans are now looking at Matheson as a first team option in waiting.

Ian Evatt wants the youngster’s progress to be solid and measured, and he will return to the B Team fold under Matt Craddock’s tutelage for a game at Stockport County in the Central League next Tuesday. For a player who had such a lot of focus as such a an early age it can often be forgotten that development is still the main aim – and though Matheson admits there have been times in the last 18 months where frustration has surfaced and his faith has been tested, the environment offered to him at Bolton seems ideal to get things back on track.

“I am probably too hard on myself sometimes – I beat myself up for little things,” he said.

“But right now I grateful I am playing. I am not on a physio bed anymore, I wake up, I go into training and I play football for a living. How can you complain at that?

“I came through the ranks at Rochdale, a similar level in League One as I am with Bolton now.

“I feel like it is privilege to play this game. My friends would give up anything to be in the position I am in. And I get to wake up every day and be a professional footballer.

“Wherever that may be, whether it is the Premier League, captaining England at the World Cup or starting for Bolton’s B Team I’m still a professional footballer.

“Obviously, you want to reach the heights of the profession, but I will never, ever take it for granted.”

Ian Evatt once said, with a note of self-deprecation, that “footballers are the best in the world at making excuses – I know, I was one for nearly 20 years, I made them all the time.”

The Bolton boss may be pleased to know that one of his latest additions appears to have bucked the occupational trend.

Whereas it would be easy for Matheson to feel bitter about his time at Molineux, or indeed the misfortune he suffered there, he would much prefer to focus on the here and now.

And while superstition got the better of him discussing those season-ending injuries from the last couple of years – a wooden desk in the press room proving perfect fodder for a good luck ritual – the youngster is determined to show that everything that has come before is just a start.

“I wouldn’t say there was a moment where I’d point to it and say ‘oh my days, I wish that hadn’t happened or that is where is went wrong’. I did both my ankles, my knee, my hamstring and had two surgeries in a month – so if injuries weren’t in football, then I wish that was a possibility. I’d undo that,” he shrugged.

“But I am just so happy to press that reset button. Lots of people want to compare me to the 15 or 16-year-old me but I am a different person, I’ve matured and I am a different player.

“I want to reach the heights I did reach. But if playing against United at Old Trafford is the peak of my career then something has gone wrong.

“I can’t put into words how great everyone has been with me from the moment I have been here, coming in on trial, signing my contract. Every player and every member of staff has been top with me and I am enjoying my time here.

“The manager has treated me no differently – no special treatment – I am just another player at Bolton Wanderers Football Club and how that progresses is down to me, at the end of the day. What happens will happen. First and foremost, I want to stay fit.

“Last season I had the surgery, touch wood, and the last couple of weeks I have played two lots of 90 minutes which is the most I have managed in 18 months. Touch wood it continues and I keep enjoying my football.”