Matt Castellan has bounced back from a serious head injury to rekindle his footballing career.

Former Linnets defender MATT CASTELLAN tells Gavin Caney about the path that eventually led him to Dereham Town

What are your first memories of football?

Owning a pair of black Diadora boots and going in the back garden practicing in small goals. I also attended King’s Lynn Soccer School at Gaywood Community School every Sunday and regularly went to watch Lynn with my dad.

Were you into any other sports growing up or was the beautiful game always the one for you?

I enjoyed all sports. I was in the school basketball, cricket and football teams as well as participating for the school in athletics. 

I continued to play cricket and basketball away from academic life at Hillington (cricket) and Lynn Nets (basketball) until I was 18. However, football has always been my passion.

Give us a brief summary of your youth football experiences and who you played for.

The first team I played for was East Lynn and I was with them until I was 12.

From there I was picked up by Cambridge United, who I played one season for. I finished my youth football with Downham Town and continued with them into men’s football making my first-team debut at 16. 

Aged 17, I played for Norfolk u18s and then a year later went on to play for Swaffham Town.

You moved up three levels to join King’s Lynn Town from Swaffham in 2015. Did the approach come as a shock and was it a hard decision to join the Linnets?

It came as a little bit of a shock but after gaining promotion with Swaffham Town I knew I was in a good place with my football. 

It was a tough decision as I was really enjoying my football at a great local club. However, I couldn’t turn down my hometown club whom I grew up watching, plus I wanted to play at the highest level possible.

You hit the ground running at Lynn due to an injury crisis and had a great start on a personal level. Were you surprised by how quickly you made the step up to a much higher level?

A little bit, yes. Obviously jumping up three leagues in the space of a couple of months is a rapid rise but I was quietly confident as I was doing really well with Swaffham. 

I knew I had to be patient for a chance to impress, but with experienced players around me, it made the jump up that little bit easier. 

I thrived playing for my home town, being around better players and competing against ex-pros and better players.

Matt Castellan wants to help Dereham move up the non-League pyramid.
Picture: Connor Southwell, Ben Ambrose and Myfootballwriter

It’s probably horrible to think about again, but please tell us what you remember from the night you suffered a serious head injury at St Ives playing for Lynn in 2016 and how hard the rehabilitation programme was.

Not much at all really, which is probably the best thing. 

I can’t remember much for about 25 days after the incident due to post concussion syndrome. I do remember parts of being in Hinchingbrooke Hospital but it was all a blur really. To be advised never to play football again was really tough to hear. 

I had regular check-ups and scans to make sure there was nothing chronic with my brain. After six months I was out of the ‘red zone’ and during that time I’d started to train again, but only non-contact. 

That was hard mentally as I was watching the team train and play but could do nothing more than what I was doing. The pre-season after my injury was so tough as my confidence was at an all-time low and I almost had to learn football again after the type of injury I had. 

My first games back after my injury were really tough too and I knew it was going to be a long process to get back to where I was pre-injury.

After loan spells away from Lynn, you eventually joined Dereham in 2019. How did the move come about and how much are you enjoying your time with the Magpies, especially now your friend, and ex-Linnet, Toby Hilliard is there.

Dereham were really struggling at the time and, with a new management team, the prospect of keeping them up with regular game time was a great attraction for me. 

I needed to play regular football and with other loan spells that season I knew I could join Dereham and knuckle down. 

I’m really enjoying it, it’s great to see a few ex-Linnets players with me now as it’s a great club. 

Finally, Dereham play at Step Four of the non-League pyramid (two levels below Lynn). As you’ve played at Step Three, is your aim to help the club get promoted?

Yes, 100 per cent. The squad is as strong as ever and ultimately promotion is the aim. I’m confident we are capable of promotion, seeing how we finished last campaign.

The facts are…

Name: Matthew Giuseppe Castellan

Date of birth: 09/01/1995

Birth place: King’s Lynn

Grew up in: King’s Lynn

Secondary school: Springwood

Current club: Dereham Town

Former clubs: Downham Town, Swaffham Town, King’s Lynn Town, Lowestoft Town (loan), SC United Bantams

Sporting hero: Alan Shearer

Twitter: @mg_castellan

Instagram: @matt.castellan

• Matt is half Italian and is fluent in speaking, reading and writing Italian.

• He featured in a Team of the Week in the American PDL (Premier Development League) during the summer of 2016. It is now the USL (United Soccer League) 2.

• Obtained a 2:1 degree in sports coaching and physical education in 2016.

• The defender is ambidextrous.

• The semi-professional footballer is also owner/head coach of MC Evolution Training.

• Made 58 appearances for King’s Lynn Town. 

Quickfire questions

Restaurant or takeaway?

Night in or night out?

Bath or shower?

Tea or (Italian) coffee? 

Sweet or savoury? 

Summer or winter? 

Day or night? 

Cinema or theatre?

Favourite food:
Mum’s roast dinner

Least favourite food: Indian

Favourite TV programme: Prison Break or Power

Least favourite TV programme: Love Island

Favourite band/musician: Drake 

Least favourite band/musician: Olly Murs 

Favourite film: Coach Carter or Saving
Private Ryan

Least favourite film: Any of the Marvel movies

Answers in italics