Seeing his name illuminated on the electronic advertising boards around Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, is a moment 12-year-old Kieran Watson will treasure for the rest of his days.
The Hearts youth player was rewarded for his silky skills and positivity off the park at a recent training camp in Manchester when he was selected from a pool of 480 footballers as the most promising talent to emerge over the weekend.
The youngster was subsequently invited to take part in a training session on the Old Trafford turf before a guided tour around the 76,000-seated arena. If that wasn’t enough, a further training session at the English Premier League club’s training complex at Carrington followed in the afternoon to complete a truly memorable day for the Dalkeith High pupil.
“It was amazing to see,” Kieran said of his name flashing around the perimeter of the pitch. “We got changed in the home dressing room, which is massive, and then ran out the tunnel, which was brilliant. The pitch was like a snooker table so it was great to play on.”
Upon learning that his invite to the home of one of the biggest football clubs in the world would clash with the all-Edinburgh Scottish Cup final between Hearts and Hibs, a match Kieran himself had a ticket for, he admits it was a difficult decision he faced, but acknowledged that chances like the one presented to him don’t come around too often.
“I gave the tickets away to one of my friends so they went instead. I was feeling guilty, though, as my mum and dad had given up the opportunity to go to Hampden to come and watch me play at Old Trafford. I was pleased with how the cup final went so I think it was all worth it in the end as Hearts won. My dad, on the other hand, wasn’t too happy as he supports Hibs.”
Kieran was one of 26 who travelled from Dalkeith High to one of the residential weekends Manchester United Soccer Schools have been operating for secondary pupils across the country.
He added: “When they announced the winner was from Dalkeith High School, I thought it could have been any one of us but I was just lucky that it was me. This just makes me want to push harder and get to the very top.”