Cash. Matty Cash. It sounds like a name from a blockbuster, an English villain ready to make life hard for the superhero, but he’s just an Englishman born in Slough, a raiding right back, the prototype of the modern footballer, who is representing the Poland national team, making his debut at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
He was definitely one to watch as he rose through the youth ranks, but has never represented England in any youth category. A winger turned full-back, Cash was quite the victim of the influx of right backs in England’s squad, with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier or Reece James being the pick of the crop.
But the dream of playing international football has never died for the player who started football at Wycombe Wanderers, but made his mark at Championship side Nottingham Forest, before signing for Aston Villa in a £16 million transfer, which saw him deputise on the position in the Premier League team.
His father, Stuart, a former football player himself, had a long career in non-League football, also being a manager for some clubs that had never featured in the top three flights of English football.
He was also a influence when the 24-year-old Cash had to take an important decision for his career. Due to his mother and late grandfather being born in Gdansk, Poland, he could apply for Polish citizenship and represent the team in international football. Stuart backed Matty, as he decided to take up the challenge, with his opportunities for England drying up.
Ryszard Tomaszewski, Cash’s maternal grandfather, was born three years before the outbreak of the second world war in the city of Stanislawow, which was then part of the Second Polish Republic but is now in Ukraine (and named Ivano-Frankivsk). Alongside his family, he moved from Iran, to Tanganika in Africa and then set up shop in Liverpool, where they made a life for themselves.
The process was difficult, first taking an interview at the Polish embassy in London, which he passed with flying colours. Soon enough, in 2021, Cash applied for Polish citizenship and he got it in the capital, Warsaw, in October, ready to make his debut for the national team. Only a few days later, the right back got his first call-up in a 4-1 away win in Andorra in November.
“I’ve got relations in Poland but I’ve never been there and never met them, but my mum has been on the phone to them constantly and everyone is so excited. Even the response I’ve had from people on social media has been unbelievable. I can’t wait to get going and meet everyone. I only speak a few words of Polish but my mum speaks it fluently and she has been helping me brush up,” said Cash according to “The Guardian”.
Yet everything was expedited by the new Polish Federation President, Cezary Kulesza, who insisted to have everything ready in time for Cash to help his new side qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It prompted a huge change of policy, after the former president, Zbiegniew Boniek, did not want to use the huge Polish diaspora, instead relying on players born and bred in Poland.
“This is a very important and proud day for me and my family. My application to get Polish citizenship has been approved by Polish authorities. I would like to thank the president, my family, and other people who helped me. Now it’s time for a new challenge. I will give my all for this country,” added Cash, upon receiving his citizenship.
In fact, Cash had previously contacted the Polish FA, but got rebuffed. His chances also did not dry up despite the first coach he played for, Paulo Sousa, being replaced with Czesław Michniewicz.
Indeed, Cash brought his no-nonsense attitude and vitality to the Polish side, which made its debut at Qatar 2022 in a 0-0 draw against Mexico, with striker Robert Lewandowski missing a crucial penalty, which would have handed his side the win.
But Cash proved why he is now so important, with his excellent defensive skills and attacking raids proving an issue for all the opposing left-backs he faces.
“I feel like I can definitely fit into Poland, 100%. I already knew from watching their games how passionate and aggressive they play so hopefully I can implement that too,” concluded Cash. His estimates were right and he can now only focus on football. Poland’s win is England’s loss.