When an FA Cup hero Matt Rhead returned to his old factory ...
Published: 13 March, 2017
Former JCB digger maker-turned FA Cup hero Matt Rhead was given a rousing reception when he retraced his footsteps on the production line where he worked for almost a decade.
Matt, 32, of Stoke-on-Trent, was a popular figure at the JCB Earthmovers factory in Cheadle, Staffs where he worked before leaving to become a professional footballer in 2012.
Five years later he hit the national headlines after being named man-of-the-match when his team Lincoln City become the first non-league side to reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup in 103 years by beating Premier League team Burnley 1-0.
In the build up to Lincoln’s keenly anticipated sixth round tie with Arsenal, Matt returned to JCB Earthmovers to a hero’s reception from former colleagues.
He said: ‘It’s great to be back at JCB to meet my mates I spent almost 10 years working with. I had some very good times there and when I was offered a professional footballing contract it was a dream come true but leaving JCB was also a very difficult decision because I really enjoyed the job.
‘I was taught to work hard and to continue learning and that has stood me in good stead for my footballing career.’
When Matt joined JCB he trained as a welder before promotion to the role of team leader in the welding area of the factory making JCB 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 offered Matt 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.’
Manufacturing Engineer Darren Brown, 38, of Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent, has been employed by JCB for 17 years and worked alongside Matt. He said: ‘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 5-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.’
Dave Roberts, 44, of Clayton, Newcastle, Staffs, joined JCB on the same day as Matt in 2003. He said: ‘Matt was only a teenager when we both started work here and he was a good lad from the start and enjoyed life in the weld shop and all the banter that goes with it.
‘He always had a smile on his face and was just a good down to earth lad, who was respected by the lads he worked with. We always knew he was a good football player and it’s brilliant what he has achieved. I’m absolutely chuffed to bits for him.’