MATTY Palmer only found out he would be making his full Burton Albion debut 75 minutes before kick-off, and four hours later, he was looking back on a night he says he will remember for the rest of his life.
The Brewers rode a rollercoaster of League Cup football before eventually being knocked out on penalties against Premier League side Fulham on Tuesday night.
Derby-born Palmer played the full 90 minutes – his first start for the club from whose academy he emerged this summer – as the 2010 Europa League finalists were pushed all the way in a thrilling cup tie at the Pirelli Stadium.
“It’s what dreams are made of,” he said.
“I loved every minute of it, playing against a Premiership side and against Premiership players was brilliant.
“It was a bit heartbreaking, but that’s what football is. You can win them or lose them and that’s how it goes.”
Albion were under the cosh for much of the opening hour or so of the second round tie, and trailed from the 35th minute, when Moroccan showman Adel Taarabt smashed the Cottagers in front.
However, as long as there was only a goal in it, the Brewers knew they had a chance, and upped the tempo in the final 15 minutes, with Jack Dyer producing a net-buster of his own with five minutes to go.
That sent the tie into extra-time, and Albion were in dreamland on 102 minutes, when Michael Symes rose high enough to dwarf Fulham’s Norwegian man-mountain Brede Hangeland and nod his side into a previously unthinkable 2-1 lead.
They could not hold out though, and after Hugo Rodallega forced penalties, Dyer missed and John Arne Riise powered home the winning spot-kick.
Palmer said: “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.
“I found out about half six.
“I was very surprised because I thought that playing a Premier League team, we might just go with the normal starting line-up.
“But the gaffer has given me a chance and hopefully I’ve taken it.
“Fulham are a Premiership team, and drawing 2-2 with them is a great result.
“They moved the ball quite well, but I thought they didn’t really create too much in the first half.
“But then because they kept the ball so much, they ground us down in extra time.”
Palmer never looked out of place up against a Fulham midfield including Taarabt, England international Scott Parker and Greece’s record cap holder and Euro 2004-winning captain Georgios Karagounis.
And the 18-year-old Littleover resident, who left Derby County’s academy to join the equivalent institution at Burton, said he was not over-awed by the occasion.
“I don’t really get nervous but obviously it’s a big game,” he said.
“But I thought I did all right.”
Making his bow against Fulham marks the high point of what has been a fantastic nine months for Palmer.
He made his debut substituting for Jacques Maghoma in the FA Cup last November and made his League debut in April.
Then after impressing manager Gary Rowett over the summer, he and classmate Liam Slade signed professional terms last month, before putting pen to paper on a three-year deal three weeks ago.
“I trust myself, and I hope I’ve done something right,” he said.
“Hopefully more can come and I can continue to be involved in games and even start a few.
“Now I can push on, get some starts and just do the best I can.”