Just two days after making his senior debut and with the first team squad, Matt Jay was back on the pitch at Exeter City’s Cat and Fiddle headquarters training with the development squad.
The training session – on the pitch usually used by the first team – mirrored that of the senior pros in it being a small game on a scaled-down pitch involving several fringe players under the age of 21 and youth-teamers. But in just a few minutes of watching, you could see that 17-year-old Jay was a cut above the rest and destined for a career in the beautiful game.
After one substitute appearance – and some highly encouraging displays for the reserves, development side and under-18s – it would be wrong and unfair to build the hype up surrounding Jay. But when you see the pint-sized attacker receive the ball, it is hard not to get excited.
Thankfully, the second-year scholar’s feet are firmly on the ground and he is taking everything in his stride.
“It’s all a bit of a whirlwind really,” said Jay after the intensive training session. “It’s a bit of a shock, but I will take it as it comes, keep enjoying it, keep doing my stuff and hope for the best.
“I didn’t expect any of this. I am a second-year scholar, so I thought I’d concentre on the youth team, try and get a few appearances for the reserve team and earn myself a pro contract. It’s all going well.
“It was really good to make my debut and I really enjoyed it. It was a bit different to what I am used to, but it was a good atmosphere.
“It wasn’t long before their centre half gave me a ‘welcome to League Two’ sort of tackle and he hit me hard. Luckily, it didn’t really hurt, so I was able to bounce back up.
“It was a disappointing result for the lads and the team, but on a personal level, it was good to make my debut and we move on to the next, I suppose.”
The “next” being tomorrow’s trip to Dagenham & Redbridge where the youngster is expected to travel with City missing Jamie Reid, who is away on international duty with Northern Ireland Under-21s.
It is unlikely Jay will start, but such is the impression he has made on manager Paul Tisdale, anything is possible.
On Tuesday, Jay was one of seven players on the pitch at full-time that had come through the youth ranks at St James’ Park. Two more were unused substitutes, but the word on the street is that the conveyer belt of youth does not stop there.
Indeed Jay was joined by several of his under-18 team-mates for the development team’s training session. They were notable by the fact that they changed in the youth team portable buildings, rather than the more salubrious dressing rooms of the main building that the more experienced young players enjoyed.
“It was really good to see so many of our own players involved [against Wycombe] and there are plenty more very good players in my youth team and I am sure we will see many more,” Jay added.
“The centre of excellence and the youth team are really good and it is nice to see so many young lads coming through.
“It’s really well run and credit to the club because it has come on year after year getting better and better and it is difficult being a small club trying to compete against these big clubs with lots of money and what have you. But for what it is, it’s really good fun and run really well.
“I have been here for a very long time now, I joined the under-nines, I think it was and I have come up through the years and here I am now playing for the under-18s.”
Perhaps Jay is doing himself a disservice, by referring to his status as an under-18 player still, rather than a first teamer. But that is all part of the schooling.
There will soon come a time when Jay – and some of his other under-18 team-mates – will sign a professional deal having earned his stripes as a trainee. Until then, he will have to get used to those youth-team cabins no matter how much first-team football he plays.