You may have seen him making back-page headlines recently, after he was named man of the match in non-league Lincoln’s shock FA Cup defeat of Premier League Burnley.
Big Matt, 32, of Stoke-on-Trent, was a popular figure at the JCB Earthmovers factory where he worked before leaving to become a professional footballer in 2012. He made a return visit this week, camera crew in tow, and was given a rousing reception as he retraced his footsteps on the production line where he worked for almost a decade.
After beating Burnley 1-0, Lincoln City is now the first non-league side to reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup in 103 years. Their reward is a trip to the Emirates Stadium in London on Saturday 11th March to take on Arsenal.
“The success we are enjoying in the FA Cup at the moment is just amazing and I’m really looking forward to playing against Arsenal next week,” he said. “Hopefully we can secure another giant killing result.”
When Matt joined JCB he trained as a welder before getting promoted to the role of team leader in the welding area of the factory making wheeled loaders. At weekends though, he was turning out for local non-league sides including Kidsgrove Athletic, Nantwich Town and Congleton Town. In January 2012 Mansfield Town recruited him on a part-time deal before offering him a full-time contract at the end of the season. He signed a two-year deal with Lincoln City in 2015.
Manufacturing operations manager Mick Cheadle said: “Matt was a great guy to have working for us. He always had a smile on his face, got the job done and motivated the people around him which is why he went on to become a team leader. We were very sad to see him leave but naturally he had to follow his dream. It’s great that it’s paying off for him and since he left we have always followed his progress closely. It’s been great to see the success he’s having with Lincoln in the FA Cup and hopefully they can now reach Wembley.”
Manufacturing engineer Darren Brown, 38, also worked alongside Matt. He also played five-a-side with him. “I remember when he first started at JCB Earthmovers I went up to him and asked him if he fancied joining a game of football on Thursday nights and he never let on how good he was!
“We then played regular five-a-side for around three years before Matt started to play at a higher level. We’ve followed his progress keenly since he left JCB and I always look out for his results and see if he has scored.
“Seeing Matt going on to bigger and better things in football is really great. I struggle to believe that we all used to play five-a-side together and now his next match is at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal.”