To most young footballers the offer of a contract from Manchester United is everything they’ve ever dreamed of.
Turning down the chance to sign on at Old Trafford, well, most people would think you’d have to be mad to do that.
Johnny Gorman had the carrot of a two-year deal at United dangled in front of him when he was just 16, but the maturity with which he made the decision to say ‘no’ to one of the biggest football clubs in the world is a display that his sanity is perfectly intact.
The 18-year-old brought a new meaning to the term ‘schoolboy international’ when he made his senior Northern Ireland debut a year ago.
International manager Nigel Worthington has huge belief in the youngster and Gorman expects more and more young footballers to follow the path that he’s taken.
He attends Repton, a public school in Derbyshire, that lists author Roald Dahl among its former pupils. Gorman is preparing to sit A-Level exams within the next month; after that he wants to write his own story — and he is planning on it being one of success.
“United offered me a two-year scholarship — and they are a great club — but whether I’d be offered anything more after that wasn’t certain,” said Gorman, who was born in Sheffield but has Northern Ireland parentage and a large family in Belfast and Coleraine.
“Repton wanted me, Wolves wanted me as well and it was agreed that this was the best way to go about things.
“I’d looked at options with my mum and dad and we’d already looked at Repton.
“I was overwhelmed about being made an offer by Manchester United, but I made my mind up that I wanted to do things this way.
“If you don’t make it and you’ve no A-Levels either, it makes things hard.
“I know a lot of people don’t understand and think I was crazy to turn down Manchester United, but others have realised that it’s not a bad idea and now there are a few younger kids doing the same thing.”
While his schoolmates will be deep into revision this week, Gorman will be putting the books to one side.
He flew into Dublin yesterday and will be in the Northern Ireland team to face the Republic of Ireland in a Carling Nations Cup battle at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night.
He hasn’t had to go into school with a note from Worthington asking that ‘little Johnny is excused from lessons as he’s playing international football.’
Instead his school programme is perfectly structured to allow Gorman to pursue both paths and give each as much commitment as possible.
“My week’s split with three days at school and three days at Wolves. The days vary depending on when we have games,” said Gorman, who was voted the Wolves Academy Player of the Year.
“The school has been really supportive and they are flexible with days.
“It’s not something that is particularly new to the school. They are used to that level of sporting performance as there are a couple of hockey internationals there as well.
“It is hard work to do both and at times I feel overwhelmed, but I’ve got teachers who realise the pressures and they’ve been flexible with deadlines for work. Without that I’d have struggled.”
Last year Gorman had to delay an exam when he went to America to make his Northern Ireland debut against Turkey.
This time match dates and his exam timetable are in sync.
“My art A-Level is mostly coursework, but I’ve a PE exam on June 16 and English on June 26,” said Gorman.
“Luckily I didn’t have to make a decision when it came to the Carling Nations Cup games, because I’d have preferred to be playing for my country.”
Gorman became the sixth youngest international in Northern Ireland football history when he faced the Turks 12 months ago.
He joined a list that includes Norman Whiteside, Sammy McIlroy and the great George Best by debuting at 17 years old — outdoing Best by over 100 days.
In July, Gorman will go full-time at Wolves, with the goal of making it to the Premier League. Manager Mick McCarthy has been monitoring his progress for some time, but Gorman doesn’t expect to get any backing from the boss tomorrow night.
“Mick McCarthy's very supportive,” Gorman. “Given his connections with the Republic I don’t think he’ll be supporting me when we play them.”