The ball is slipped through and Louie Barry finds himself in the position he’d been dreaming about.
Barry, 17 and making his debut due to a COVID-19 outbreak within Aston Villa’s first team squad, steps across Liverpool defender Rhys Williams with the intelligence of a seasoned centre-forward.
Just Caoimhin Kelleher stands between him and the most unlikely of debut goals against the Premier League champions, plus pride of place on the back page of every newspaper in the country.
For the thousands of Villa fans glued to their TV screens at home, time stood still. This was the moment Barry had been working towards.
“As soon as he broke away from the halfway line I knew there was only going to be one outcome and that was a goal,” says Kevin Dove, the man who first scouted Barry over a decade ago.
The circumstances which brought Barry to Villa Park, via a short stay in Barcelona, have caused a lot of anger at West Bromwich Albion. They found him, nurtured him and watched him fly off into the Spanish sunset only to return within six months and sign for one of their biggest rivals.
However, those who played a part in Barry’s development at Albion don’t seem to hold any bitterness at all.
“I’ve been with West Brom on and off for 20 years and to see Louie play the other night gives me pride,” Dove continued. “I sat there with a big smile on my face.
“I was listening to (Mark) Delaney afterwards saying he’s doing it week in, week out for the under-23s, which is great.”
Villa paid an initial £880,000 to sign Barry from Barcelona and that will rise with add-ons in the future. It’s a relatively small price to pay for a player who, if he continues along this trajectory, could emulate fellow Villan Jack Grealish and become a regular for the club he and his family support.
During this exclusive interview with BirminghamLive, Dove revealed that Villa were among the teams he beat to sign Barry after watching him shine for local Sunday League side Sutton United.
“They say he was six but I’m sure he was seven when he came into the academy,” Dove explained. “I think Aston Villa were showing interest at the time.
“I picked him up and another lad who is going to get a professional contract here at Albion. It was one of those good days where I picked up two in the same game.
“He was just different. He was very direct, he’d get his head up and he’d go for goal, that’s all he ever wanted to do. He had a bit about him, something different about him on the pitch.”
Dove found the kid Jurgen Klopp has dubbed the ‘Little Jamie Vardy’, but it was the likes of Jamie Russell who were tasked with honing Barry’s obvious talents from an early age.
Russell coached Barry in his formative years at Albion and was able to offer a more intimate insight into the teenager’s personality, in addition to his insatiable appetite for scoring goals.
“I used to pick him up for school release in the daytime so I know Louie quite well,” he said. “He’s always been quiet off the pitch but always had a real confidence in his ability on the pitch.
“He was always bright, playing on the shoulder and just wanting to score goals. I think that’s what he’s always been since he was seven or eight, he’s just always wanted to score goals. He was prolific.”
It wasn’t just Barry’s footballing mentors who were beaming with pride on Friday night, a clutch of teachers at Bishop Walsh Catholic School in Sutton Coldfield were watching on as he embarrassed arguably the best team in the world.
Mr O’Rourke, who was Barry’s head of year at Bishop Walsh, said: “From the very start of his time here his enthusiasm and smile was infectious.
“Louie absolutely loved every aspect of PE in particular. In one year seven match he played for the school he scored six goals before half time and had to be substituted to be fair to the opposition!”
Deputy headteacher, Mr Neilan, added: “It was incredibly rewarding to see his performance and wonderful goal against Liverpool on national TV. We hope Louie has a long and successful career at the very top of his profession.”