Socceroos call-up 'surreal', Simon says
It's known as the Theatre of Dreams and Manchester United's home ground Old Trafford was the starting point of an unlikely dream for aspiring Socceroos debutant Matt Simon.
Simon, 22, was enjoying a holiday to England in 2005 when he attended a match between English giants Manchester United and Liverpool.
From that point he decided he wanted nothing more than to become a professional footballer.
The 188cm Simon had already caught Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna's eye playing for East Gosford in the Central Coast premier league but his dream of a professional deal seemed a long way off.
Just three years later, Simon is tied second with Melbourne Victory's Danny Allsop on the A-League scoring charts with 11 goals and on Monday was called into Pim Verbeek's Socceroos squad for next week's Asian Cup qualifier against Indonesia.
"It's been a little bit surreal, sometimes I have to pinch myself," Simon said.
"But it's been absolutely awesome ... breaking into the Mariners side and playing regularly now and scoring goals regularly. It's a good feeling and hopefully I can continue it.
"2005 I would never have thought that, I was just sitting down thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of my life workwise.
"Now a couple of years down the track ... If you put your mind to something anything can happen."
Simon's selection in the Socceroos squad is not his first - Verbeek brought him into the squad ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Iraq - but it is his first real opportunity to secure a cap for his country.
The squad for the World Cup qualifier was full of Europe-based stars but this time around it's drawn purely from A-League talent.
And with his A-League scoring rate, Simon must be a strong chance to represent his country in the January 28 fixture.
He has notched his 11 goals from 18 games, all from open play, and is behind only New Zealander Shane Smeltz's 12 for Wellington which include five penalties.
"I've been called in previously but I haven't actually gone into camp because all the European boys have been fit but when he (Verbeek) announced all A-League players were going to represent the Socceroos in Jakarta I thought I'd be in with a good chance," he said.
"I was absolutely ecstatic (to be picked), it's capped off a good year so I'm just looking forward to getting in there and hopefully I can get my first cap."