It was, honestly, just a dream come true for me.
To captain my country and score a hat-trick in a World Cup to take us to the semi-finals of the biggest sporting event in our calendar, was an amazing feeling.
Other than my daughter being born and when I got my initial England call up and first cap, this has been my finest hour really.
- Born: Stockton, 10 June 1990
- England debut: v Japan in 2015
- Twitter: @Matts90
I didn’t even realise it all came in seven minutes, until I came off the pitch afterwards and someone told me. It didn’t seem quick at the time, it seemed to drag a little between the goals to be honest.
In the game itself, we didn’t even really play to our potential or the extent of what we could really achieve, but during the game, even when we were 1-0 down, there was a supreme confidence about us and I could see that in the rest of the team.
When the referee blew the whistle at the end, it was a great feeling and I just can’t explain it.
I lost my grandma on 1 February this year, and I know that she was giving me all the luck especially for me to score three.
It’s funny, because there’s a thing among the team that I can strike a ball really well, but I’m shocking at getting them on target and scoring so to get three in one game, some stars were definitely aligning for me!
Now we head on to play Russia in the semi-final. They’re one of the best, they’re just as energetic as us and whenever we play them it’s always like a final.
We treat every game as if it’s our last, a do-or-die scenario, but this one is going to be something else and we’ll do everything we can to win.
If we do beat them, it’s not really an upset anymore because to get as far as we have in the tournament, we’re one of the best teams in the world and to be in the semi-finals again after 2017 just proves that.
We spoke about that after the game last night in our huddle, that we got to this stage two years ago in Argentina and finished fourth, and now we want to go one further.
For me, I just feel lucky being involved here with this team and group of people. I suffered from a stroke in 2013 when I was 23 and it might sound strange, but I can honestly say that having a stroke is one of the best things that happened to me.
Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to become to compete in competitions like this, become seen as one of the top CP players in the world or be able to captain my country.
With the staff and the team that we’ve got, I haven’t just met friends, I’ve found a family.
I can remember right from one of the first camps I went to, I just fell in love with CP football after going there expecting that it could be quite a limited sport but no, the quality is excellent.
If you watch the likes of Ukraine, Russia, Iran and Brazil, you can see it’s a fully able sport and it’s fantastic to see more and more young players inspired to watch our games and anyone with cerebral palsy or a brain injury, it’s just fantastic.
We want to inspire and that’s how I got into it, because I was really inspired when I went to that first camp and saw what people had been through and how they’d managed their disability.
That’s the reason Russia are so good because they work and work and work on their disability sports and that’s what we’re starting to do in England so hopefully it’s paying dividends for us.
It’s a game on the up, as people are wanting to play for their country and enjoy the experiences. People with CP might previously not have spoken up about it, or they’d be too worried to do anything about it, but now they want the opportunity to come and train.
We’ve seen it already with more young players coming to our camps and with the media coverage. We saw it earlier this summer with the Lionesses, how women’s football is growing and we’re hoping to see similar with CP football so we want to keep it growing and growing.
It’s a fantastic and inspiring sport, because every player has a story and you could pick any player in the squad and they will have a part of their journey which will be inspiring to somebody.
For me, it’s just been a whirlwind and to captain my side, get a hat-trick and take us to a semi-final, it’s a dream come true.FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PARA FOOTBALL IN ENGLAND