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Many happy returns for Burnley hat-trick hero Jason Gilchrist
AS Roy of the Rovers storylines go scoring a match winning hat-trick to knock Manchester United out of the FA Youth Cup at Old Trafford a week before your 18th birthday takes some beating.
But that was the script young Burnley striker Jason Gilchrist played out last Friday at the appropriately named Theatre of Dreams – and to make it even sweeter, the Thatto Heath youngster is a United supporter.
Last week’s haul was the former Pilkington, Blackbrook and St Helens schoolboys striker’s fourth hat-trick of this year’s campaign – and will assist Gilchrist’s bid to secure a contract at the Turf Moor outfit.
His proud dad Mel, who was among a 32-strong contingent of family and friends from St Helens cheering his son on to a famous victory, said: “You couldn’t have written a better script – a United fan playing at United.
“Once he scored the first two I knew he’d get another.
“He was buzzing when he got back – they gave him the match ball and all the players signed it for him, so he was made up.”
Gilchrist spent ten years on Manchester City’s books after getting picked up by local scout Jimmy Pullen at the age of six, but he was released two years ago and joined a scholarship at Burnley.
The former De La Salle pupil did not let City’s rejection get to him, and found the net 26 times last year and has already rattled in 19 goals in 11 outings this term including hat-tricks against Blackpool, Accrington Stanley and Morecambe.
His dad said: “Jason was a little bit gutted when City let him go, but I have always believed in him and he believes in himself and he has bounced back well from having to leave there.
“He had been at City since he was six – and was top goal scorer for six years there.
“I just hope they get City in the next round draw when they make it on Friday. I would love to see that.”
Modelling himself on an Alan Shearer type front man, the 6ft1 striker is a multi-skilled footballer.
“Jason is a striker but he can play anywhere, defence or the wing.
“When he plays for the reserves they play him in the wing – but they may start playing him up front now.
“He played as the lone striker – but he only needs a chance and has that knack.
“He is good at holding the ball up and is quick and he can hit a ball, he can use both feet and his head effectively.
I have seen him score hat-trick, left foot, right foot and header,” said Mel.
His exploits at Old Trafford, where there were around 700 travelling Clarets fans among the 3,600 crowd has done him plenty of favours.
And he is certainly enjoying his football in the east Lancashire town.
His dad added: “Burnley is a great club to play for – he loves it up there and they look after him.
“He is on a scholarship – but all the fans are shouting up for him on the website, which is a good thing.
“The club are very good with him – they know when to push them.”
Jason turns 18 on Monday - and if his perfect week could not get any better, he was at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday watching his beloved United get an injury time winner over City in the Manchester derby.