Matty Cash is set to play right-back for Poland – a country where he was not born and a position he once did not want to play.
But unexpected turns are a common theme for a player who has gone from selling toys at Windsor to rising from Ligue 2 to the Premier League.
Now a regular at Aston Villa, he is part of the Poland squad for Friday’s World Cup qualifiers against Andorra,
Yet at 16 he was without a club after being released by Wycombe.
“He was lost,” his father Stuart Cash told BBC Sport.
“My wife and I sent him to work at the Daniel department store, we wanted him to experience this real professional life and it was fantastic for him. It gave him a sense of life without football, d ‘having been so close.
“I remember sitting down with him and saying ‘listen, if you want to go work at Daniel’s or find a job somewhere else, me and your mother will support us, but you have too much talent on a football field to do that ‘.
“From there he knew what to do. This job gave him the motivation to say ‘I don’t want to do this, I want to be a footballer’.”
“I made them do laps around a two acre green”
Cash born in Slough – eligible to play for Poland through mother Barbara – obtained citizenship in October, before receiving its first call-up in November. He will now team up with prolific Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich.
With Stuart, a former Chesterfield full-back, his older brother Adam, an out-of-league Northwood FC semi-pro and fellow golf fellow in America, the sport is very much in Cash’s blood.
“I’ve always told him the truth, good or bad,” Stuart added.
“When he was younger, if I thought he or his brother hadn’t put in enough effort in their football game this weekend, I would take them home, pull out my stopwatch, and run them around. around a two acre green near our house.
“I used to tell them ‘whenever your mom and I have to sacrifice our weekends and you don’t put in the effort, that’s what you’re going to do.
“I’m not one of those dads who’ll just be nice. If he or his siblings need a kick in the back, I’m here to do it and if they deserve a pat on the back, I will too. “
The “perfect modern day full-back” who started in midfield
Nowadays, Cash is a right-back by trade, but that hasn’t always been the case.
After relaunching his football career at Bisham Abbey-based FAB football academy, Cash was taken over by Nottingham Forest, the club where he would become the ‘perfect modern full-back’.
“We judged him after playing a friendly against Bisham Abbey,” said Nottingham Forest academy director Gary Brazil.
“His enthusiasm and desire to move on the pitch really won us over. He first came in as a midfielder and he was the one where after a few minutes we thought ‘wow, we have a footballer here. “.
“He was one of those players where we thought we could definitely take a trip together and achieve something.”
It’s a journey that began in east London as League 2 fighters Dagenham and Redbridge loaned out the 17-year-old attacking midfielder for the final stages of the 2016-17 season.
“He came back a lot better for the experience,” Brazil said.
“It was a chance for him to learn more about the ‘real’ game and the demands of men’s football and he came back knowing he could handle this environment.”
Cash returned to City Ground and made his first-team debut for Forest the following season.
But it wasn’t until the 2019-20 season – where an injury crisis called for covering up at the back – that defense became its full-time role.
“I have (former Forest boss) Sabri Lamouchi to thank for turning me into a full-back,” Cash told the EFL last year.
“I remember being told I was playing right-back in a preseason friendly and didn’t want to do it. I had never done it before, but it worked and now i love to play there. “
Cash spent five seasons at Forest and was named Player of the Season in 2019-20, before signing a five-year contract at Villa Park in September 2020 after a £ 16million transfer, making 40 appearances.
“Maybe not so long ago he wasn’t a footballer”
Cash’s energetic and offensive performances at right-back, as well as his superb strike against Everton in September for his first goal at Villa, raised his profile and, in turn, opened up the prospect of an international career.
“We talked about him potentially playing for Poland when he signed for Villa, we always talked about progression,” said Stuart.
“We’re always talking about the next step, even now. Five years ago it was to experience first-team football, then it was to establish in the first team in Forest, then it was was the Premier League and now it’s the international stage. Everything is really going to be planned. “
Dedicated and hardworking on the ground, Cash remains grounded, according to those who know him.
“He’s a great boy,” said Brazil.
“Take away football, he’s a wonderful kid who has a really positive effect on those around him. He lights up a room when he walks in and has a great attitude towards life. He will continue to improve because he has the right character and works hard. “
Papa Stuart added, “He knows he’s in a privileged position.
“His feet are firmly on the ground. It wasn’t that long ago that he might not even be a footballer, but it just shows what you can accomplish.
“He always goes back to Daniel now and he always says to me ‘daddy, do you remember when I was working there?’
“He’s the one reflecting on how far we’ve come. He often says working there was the best thing he’s ever done because it helped him get to where he wanted to be.”