Rob Edwards is far from bitter at having surrendered his piece of Carlisle United history to Jarrad Branthwaite. “I’m pleased for him,” says the club’s previous youngest-ever goalscorer. “Twenty-nine years is long enough…”

Edwards is referring to the moment on September 8, 1990 which had stood as a mark in time until, last Tuesday, a fellow Cumbrian in Branthwaite stepped out of United’s defence to score superbly at Morecambe in the Trophy.

Branthwaite was 17 years and 138 days old when he claimed that eye-catching goal, 112 days younger than Edwards when the latter scored a penalty against Maidstone nearly three decades earlier.

“When I heard, I did some research on him,” Edwards says. “I didn’t know much about him.

“Although I’ve watched Carlisle in the last couple of years, I hadn’t seen this boy. I noticed the name when he scored, but I didn’t realise he was so young.”

Edwards says all this with a tone that suggests he is mightily impressed with Branthwaite’s feat, as well as the fact the Wigton boy is already establishing himself as a first-team player. Now 46, and the Wales Under-19s manager, Edwards enjoys the opportunity to roll back his own precocious years with Carlisle, and offer perspective on Branthwaite’s rise today.

Edwards had broken into Clive Middlemass’s United team late in the 1989/90 season and, early the following campaign, found himself on penalties because the regular taker, Nigel Saddington, was absent through the illness that would lead to his early retirement.

“It was the other players that pushed me forward,” says Edwards, a midfielder by instinct but in the side at left-back, in place of the injured Ian Dalziel. “It wasn’t in my make-up to be super-confident and stand forward. But we did finishing drills and penalties in training, and one of the senior players said, ‘Go on Rob, you’re the penalty-taker – you’ve been the best for the last month’.”

Middlemass had also insisted his players should hand the ball to the Cockermouth youngster if United were awarded a spot-kick. So they were that day against Maidstone, when striker Keith Walwyn was felled in the box after 25 minutes.

Edwards drilled home the game’s only goal from 12 yards, but did not appreciate for a long time that he had made United history. “I was just a second-year apprentice, so I was aware I was pretty young to be in the team, but I wasn’t aware it was a record,” he says.

“No-one told me at the time, unfortunately. I think the first time I saw it was many years later when the club posted something on Twitter. I told my son and he was like, ‘I didn’t think you scored many goals, Dad’.”

Edwards was indeed accomplished from the spot for one so young, scoring a handful more that season. He does not remember feeling nervous when he stepped up against Maidstone or at other times.

“When you’re a kid, you don’t feel nerves, do you?” Edwards says. “Unfortunately that sort of confidence leaves you by the time you get to your mid-20s, and you start worrying about ‘what will happen if I miss?’, or if you don’t play well.

“The fact is, I was super-confident, because of what I’d been told. Harry Gregg was the manager who signed me, along with Jeff Thorpe and Lee Armstrong, from Cockermouth, on schoolboy forms. I was 14, and Harry said, ‘You’ll definitely play in the first team’.

“Clive Middlemass came in after him, and said the same. So did the youth team manager, Aidan McCaffery. Coaches today say things like, 'Not many of you will make it', but I try to tell young players they have a great chance, if they make the right sacrifices.

"From getting my scholarship, the first few years of my career just flew by. I was just continually climbing this ladder. I wanted to play for Liverpool.”

The mentality of a fearless young pro can also be helped by circumstance. Carlisle were not in a golden era of football or finance in the late 80s and early 90s. “I imagine, if they’d had lots of money, they’d have gone out and signed someone when Ian Dalziel got injured,” Edwards says.

“It wasn’t a successful period – but it was a good time and a good club to be a young player. I got my chance, and the crowd always supported me, because I was a local lad. There was never any criticism. It was just the most perfect thing for a young player to come into the team.”

Edwards made 50 appearances before getting his move in the spring of 1991. “It was a tough time for Carlisle, and for Clive,” he says. “In the end, I had to go because they were struggling for money. They’d looked after me, and Bristol City were on the up.”

Edwards did not take any more penalties from there – he says having one saved by Stockport’s Paul Cooper, a renowned spot-kick expert, spelled the end for him in the discipline – but did well two levels up at Ashton Gate, where he spent eight years and won a Wales call-up, qualifying for the country through his father. “Although I had 50 games’ experience, it took me a few months to get a game,” he says.

“They had an established team with lots of players. I probably stayed there too long, but it was a good move for me and I was always grateful to Carlisle for giving me a chance.”

Both from his own memories and his job now, Edwards – who also played for Preston, Blackpool and Exeter – is in a good position to comment on the hazards facing teenage stars. “I think the biggest pitfall is if, as soon as you get into the first team, you stop working at developing your game,” he says.

“Things have changed now, and coaches work more on players. When I played, once you got into someone’s first team, it was too easy to go home at 1pm rather than do an extra session.

“You have to keep working at it. You’re never too old to pick things up.”

Anyone who speaks about Branthwaite says good things about his attitude in this regard, while the defender himself has spoken of the benefits of extra training. The other issue is his future, given the number of clubs on his trail, and the fact United have already sold two teenagers [Liam McCarron, Josh Galloway] this year.

“Things are different now, because of agents,” Edwards says. “I didn’t have one. It was me and my dad, with the youth team coach and Clive who wanted me to move on. Now an agent’s job seems to be to get these lads moved as quickly as they can, which is not always good for the boys.

“His [Branthwaite’s] agent will have to be careful of where he goes. I’ve seen players leave Exeter when I was there, and sometimes you can get lost at big clubs as they have so many players.

“If I was his agent I would say, ‘Stay, play, learn your trade’. Carlisle have given you a chance, give them something back as well.

“We have some top players in the [Wales] Under-23s who are nowhere near first-team football. If you’re playing, you learn so quickly.”

Branthwaite’s pro career is only nine games old yet already he looks like he belongs. “He’s obviously a talented lad, and you back yourself when you’re young,” Edwards adds. “Clubs aren’t daft – they don’t put these boys in unless they’re ready and can physically deal with it.

“There’s a lot of boys we work with in the FAW [Football Association of Wales] who are not physically developed enough to play men’s football. For him [Branthwaite] to be playing shows he’s ready, and it seems like he’s a good player technically.”

The fact Branthwaite is, like Edwards, a Cumbrian proudly representing Cumbria’s Football League club, also matters – however long it lasts. “I’m big on local boys playing for their club, where they’re born,” Edwards says.

“I spent two years working at Southampton and they sign boys from abroad. I always think to myself, you need to have some feeling for your first club, an affinity with the fans. I’m sure this boy has that. I’ll be very interested in where his career pans out.”