A rather unusual set of circumstances led to a football career for Matthew Cox as his potential was spotted when he was playing rugby!
The seventeen-year-old, who will tonight be between the sticks at Plough Lane for our Under-18s versus Burnley, made his England youth debut versus Ukraine last year and he has been on the bench for our first-team recently.
However, things could have turned out very differently as his father had earmarked a different sporting code for Matthew as a boy.
“When I was younger I played rugby for six months, but a coach who was involved with a Chelsea development team seen me play and he said I would be good in goal. He gave me some gloves, I turned up at a training session, and I ended up signing there. I have played football ever since, so for 10 or 11 years now.
“I played for Cobham Rugby Club, which was just around the corner from me. My Dad was a rugby coach at his school, so he got me into the sport, but I ended up playing football through that, which is quite ironic.”
After signing for Chelsea at the age of eight, Matthew left the Premier League club when he was 14, before joining our Under-15 squad and making significant progress. Matthew, who signed his first professional contract here last year, is very excited by the prospect of playing in his first match at Plough Lane tonight.
“I joined Wimbledon as an Under-15, so I have been here for three-and-a-half years now,” added Matthew. “The badge means a lot to me. It’s a family club and as soon as I came in everyone was very welcoming. They knew that I had come from a category one academy club (Chelsea) and everyone has treated me really well.
“The boys are really looking forward to it, this match has been spoken about for a while, since we went into lockdown everyone was sending messages wondering when it was going to happen. As soon as we knew the game would go ahead everyone was buzzing and getting excited again. I know it is being streamed on You Tube, so hopefully people will watch it, and see us do our best. Who knows where we will go?
“It’s a really big thing for the club to go back to Plough Lane this season and you can tell how much it means to the fans, it’s a real shame that we can’t have them in at the moment, but I am sure as soon as we can it will be packed full of supporters. It’s very exciting.”
In the build-up to tonight’s game, Academy Manager Michael Hamilton talked about the planning for the FA Youth Cup third round tie, including the appointment of James Oliver-Pearce as Head Coach for the Under-18s.
“We’ve been planning for this game for a couple of months, but due to Covid-19 restrictions things didn’t go according to plan," said Michael. "The last couple of months have just been about James implementing what was started a couple of months ago with Rob having started the process. The boys are all excited for this game.
“It’s great that we’ve now got Robbo in charge of the first-team. He wants to give young boys an opportunity, but it’s down to them to work hard and to earn it. Hopefully, the younger boys are looking at Coxy, Ayoub (Assal) and Rudi in the first-team squad and thinking, ‘I want to be a part of that’. That’s fantastic.”
“It’s a great opportunity for James, but what people probably don’t appreciate is that he has been a massive part of our success in the past. With some of the FA Youth Cup runs when Robbo was in charge, James played a big part in some of the strategies and tactics that the Under-18s implemented then. He has got a real eye for tactical stuff and he has worked with the boys who have progressed through the ranks. There is no one better to lead the Under-18s moving forward.”
You can watch tonight's game by accessing a live stream on our You Tube channel.
Click on the link below to watch the full interview with Matthew and Michael ahead of the match tonight.