Diss so proud of hero Upson

MATTHEW Upson, from Diss, was his country's hero yesterday, making a vital tackle just a few minutes before the final whistle to prevent England being knocked out of the World Cup.

MATTHEW Upson, from Diss, was his country's hero yesterday, making a vital tackle just a few minutes before the final whistle to prevent England being knocked out of the World Cup.

Millions of people in Britain were glued to their televisions as England beat Slovenia 1-0 in the crucial final group match, with a goal by Jermain Defoe.

And in one corner of south Norfolk, all eyes were on defender and former Diss High School pupil Matthew Upson, who was making his debut in the tournament.

Businesses in the town had pledged their support for the 31-year-old West Ham player and the team by decorating their shop fronts with dozens of England flags, and Umbro even painted a prominent wall red and white with Upson's squad number 15 and the words 'Tailored by Diss'.

His sister Hayley Upson, 33, who lives in nearby Roydon, said the family was excited to hear the news earlier in the week that he would make the team's starting eleven for the must-win game against Slovenia.

Before the game she said: 'We were really, really pleased for him and really excited. I cannot wait to watch him play, to represent England. To play for his country has always been his ambition,' she said.

Most Read

She added that her parents, Richard and Susan, who still live in Diss, had flown out to South Africa at the beginning of the tournament and

had spent time with their star son at the weekend.

'He has obviously been quite patient and has trained really hard, and is looking forward to his opportunity to start for the team,' she added.

'We have had loads of support. If I walk down the street, people will stop and ask about Matthew. Everyone is looking forward to seeing him play.'

Her five-year-old daughter Ruby was at school yesterday wearing an England shirt especially printed for her with the words Upson 15 on the back.

It was printed by Leisure Sport of Diss, in Mere Street, which is down to its last remaining England shirts.

Owner Charlie Nevitt said: 'I played for Diss when he was growing up. He used to come training and you could see he was quite good, but when a boy is 12 or 13 years old, it's hard to know what will come.

'You don't think people around here would go on to play for England in a World Cup. It still hasn't sunk in. It's hard to think that's him on the TV.'

Upson began his quest for sporting glory at the town's football club and was handed an academy place with Luton Town shortly after his 16th birthday.

Big-money moves to Arsenal, Birmingham City and West Ham followed along with international caps with the U18s, U21s and senior squads, but until this week he had yet to feature in a major tournament.

Tony Collins, Diss Town FC press officer, said players and supporters had been willing England boss Fabio Capello to pick their former prodigy.

'There have been quite a few supporters who have said he should have been in (the team) anyway. When we don't win, it strengthens our view,' he said.

'We all wish him the best of luck and hope it goes well. It's all up from here.'

The ex-Diss High School pupil also has the support of his former PE teacher Neil Cole. The school has his U21 England shirt proudly on display in its main hall.

Cole said: 'Matthew was always a talented all-rounder. He was good at rugby, tennis and cricket but his first love was always football.'

Adrian Kitchen, Diss Town Mayor, added that the residents would be proud to see a fellow Norfolk lad walk on to the pitch and hoped the World Cup trophy would make a trip to the town if the men wearing Three Lions were victorious at the final on July 11.

'The council is very supportive of him and wish him the very best of luck with it. We've very proud to have such an outstanding footballer from Diss,' he said.