His route into the professional game has not been a conventional one but Matty Warburton’s long wait to call himself a full-time footballer only heightens his determination to prove he can cut it.
Up until May, the former school teacher, now 27, had only played at non-league level, turning out for the likes of Curzon Ashton, Salford City and Stockport County, but then Cobblers boss Keith Curle came calling.
Scoring 40 goals in a single calendar year – as he did in 2018 – tends to attract attention and it was only a matter of time before Warburton got his big break. Now, instead of preparing his students for the final few weeks of term, he’s training in sunny Spain and preparing for friendlies against Premier League opposition.
“It does feel a bit strange but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so I’m delighted to have the chance and I’m delighted that the gaffer has given me the opportunity,” says Warburton.
“I just want to grab it with both hands. I should be in school next week for the sports awards evening so it’s a massive change in terms of the lifestyle but I’m absolutely loving it and I’m enjoying every single day.
“We’re getting worked hard but I know I’m getting fitter and I know I’m going to improve and for me it’s just a great opportunity.
I should be in school next week for the sports awards evening so it’s a massive change in terms of the lifestyle but I’m absolutely loving it and I’m enjoying every single day
“I’ll do everything I possibly can to make sure I make that step up. I’ll control the controllables and make sure I’m fit, physically strong and I’m doing my programmes and giving myself every opportunity.”
Moving down south from Manchester after two seasons playing for Stockport County, Warburton’s move to the Cobblers represents a significant lifestyle change in more ways than one.
“I’m really enjoying it so far,” he added. “I moved in a week before pre-season started to get used to it and to get myself in a routine.
“I moved down here from Manchester and I’ve got myself nice accommodation in a lovely area so I feel I’ve settled in really well and I’m happy with where I am.
“I’m glad I made the move because if I hadn’t have made the move, I wouldn’t have given myself the best opportunity to succeed. As I said before, it’s about controlling the controllables and doing everything I possibly can to get settled and play well.”
Warburton netted 27 times as County won the National League title last season and his eye for goal has already been evident in the early weeks of pre-season.
He applied a terrific finish to one of his many chances at Northampton Sileby last week, fizzing into the top corner from 20 yards, before scoring three times against Bournemouth U23s in a training game whilst in Spain.
“I’m happy with how it’s gone so far,” he continued. “But I need to improve on one or two things and I’m quite honest and I’ve had honest conversations with the management team about that.
“But I just need to control what I can and make sure that I’m ready for the step up on August 3.”
With manager Keith Curle still active in the transfer market and certain to add to the 11 signings already made this summer, Warburton knows a regular first-team spot will be hard to come by.
“You want competition for places because it’s healthy and everyone is aware of the quality within the squad and I could see that myself inside the first two weeks of training,” he added.
“There’s a lot of quality here. I’ve not been at professional level before but the lads have said we have a really strong squad and competition within the side can only be healthy and benefit us.
“There’s going to be competition all over the pitch for places and that’s what the manager wants - he’s going to have good problems and I just need to make sure I put in the right performances to be in his mind.”