WHEN Banff Academy pupil Matthew Cooper broke a bone in his leg playing football in May it almost broke his heart as well.
He feared that the untimely break had blown his dream of being picked for Aberdeen Football Club's Youth Academy, which aims to nurture the stars of the future.
"I had just had two trials with them, but I thought they would lose interest in me because the injury had me in a cast for seven weeks," the Macduff 16-year-old told 'The Banffshire Journal'. "I was pretty low. When I got the phone call saying they still wanted me, I was delighted."
Aberdeen's chief scout, Colin Grant, and the club's coaches liked so much what they saw in the trial matches, they were not put off by the injury.
Matthew was signed for Aberdeen's under-17s team, and the teenager, now fully recovered from the leg break, is set to make his debut within the next week.
"I would like to go all the way to the top in football, and I am determined to put the work in," he said. "I know that if I have a successful season with the under-17s I will have a good chance of signing as a full-time player with the under-19s and be that bit closer to breaking into senior football."
In the meantime, the fifth-year pupil has promised his parents, Paul and Morag, that he will also stick in at his school studies for his highers, having achieved excellent results this summer in his standard grade exams.
Matthew, a central midfield player, has been shining on the football pitch with Banff Academy and Deveronvale FC's age group teams for the past four years, and he is grateful for the support and training he has received from his school PE teacher, Stewart Neilston, and Deveronvale development manager, Graeme Burnett.
He said he is also indebted to the Deveronvale physiotherapist, Albert Cran, for helping him back to fitness following his leg break.
A natural athlete - he was Aberdeenshire Schools 100m and 400m champion last year - he has helped his football with strength training at Princess Royal Park, which has added muscle to his 6ft 3in frame.
Colin Grant, a former Peterhead FC player, manager and chairman who has been Aberdeen's chief scout for the past six years, told 'The Banffshire Journal' that Matthew had been on the Aberdeen "radar" for the past two years.
He explained: "We first watched him when he played for Deveronvale under-14s and under-15s. He was always quite tall and athletic, but now he has developed into a bigger, stronger player.
"Grant Smith, a Buckie High School teacher living Portsoy, is our scout in the Banffshire area, and he kept an eye on Matthew before recommending I go and watch him.
"He came to our training at the tail end of last season, and impressed our coaches in a trial match.
"We signed him for our under-17 team and he will now play against other teams from the SPL Youth Initiative League on Sundays, while training with Aberdeen twice a week and Deveronvale once a week.
"We are very grateful to Deveronvale for giving Matthew the chance to step up, and particularly the co-operation received from Graeme Burnett."
Mr Grant said he gives very careful consideration before signing players for the Aberdeen Youth Academy.
"It is a massive step up from school and juvenile football to the youth initiative where a youngster will be playing against Scottish Premier League clubs' youth players and sometimes their full-timers."