Matt Jarvis on his career, homophobia and coaching plans

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I caught up recently with Norwich City winger Matt Jarvis, I started off by asking Matt about his early sporting life and whether he felt like he was destined to be a professional footballer. He told me that his parents were both English Number 1 table tennis players and that he grew up in a very sporty household. I asked Matt what sports he played when he was younger, “At school I played football, I swam, I did athletics, I did cross-country. I was doing something every night of the week. I was Surrey champion at breaststroke, I was a cross-country champion. It was a very full on, enjoyable, hectic childhood.”

As Matt was clearly excelling at so many sports, I wondered if he considered becoming professional at anything other than football. “It was always going to be football. It got to a point where I started thinking that I could only concentrate on one thing and it was always going to be football.”

Matt’s youth career started at Millwall and he was released by them aged 16. I asked him how he dealt with this difficult experience. “I got released and it wasn’t  a very nice feeling to get told you’re not going to get offered anything at that age. Thankfully after that I went for  trial at Gillingham. I actually didn’t play very well if I’m honest but luckily enough they took a chance on me. Something just sort of clicked really and I just went from strength to strength.”

Having gone through the pain of being released, I asked Matt if there were times he thought he wouldn’t make it as a footballer. “Definitely, when I got released I thought, I don’t know what to do, should I not bother, should I stop, should I do something else? Self-confidence is very tough, especially in the football industry. You’ve got to either be very confident from the start or you’ve got to build it up. I had to build my way into it. It was a tough period but something clicked when I got offered the contract at Gillingham and I didn’t look back.”

We then discussed Matt’s time at Wolverhampton Wanderers where he gained an England cap and experienced both promotion and relegation. “Wolves was brilliant, when I signed the whole squad was a similar age and everyone got on really well. There was a good work ethic and it was a fantastic period for the club. I think the first year we missed out on the play-offs by a goal, the second year we were promoted as champions which was a fantastic achievement. We also had three years in the Premier League together.”

After Wolves’ relegation, Matt moved to West Ham and I asked him to reflect on his time at Upton Park. “It’s a massive club and I don’t think you get the full picture until you’re there. In the first year we surprised a few people by finishing 10th which was a fantastic achievement for a promoted club in their first season. I really enjoyed my time there but obviously towards the end I just didn’t play as much as I would have liked. In the end I wanted to go and play games which is why I went on loan to Norwich. Slaven Bilic wanted me to stay but he couldn’t guarantee that I’d be playing.”

Matt played under various managers including Mick McCarthy, Sam Allardyce and Slaven Bilic, I asked him which manager he found the most influential. “It’s difficult. My time at Wolves was a great period in my life. I played in the Championship, got promoted to the Premier League and got an England call up. In that scenario, I would say Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor  had a big impact on my career.”

Wolves were relegated at the end of the 2011-12 season and I asked Matt how it felt to experience relegation. “It’s gutting. You work so hard during the week and when you go out on the Saturday and leave with nothing it’s a real disappointment. If you get into a bit of a rut where you’ve lost a couple of games on the spin, it’s hard mentally to turn it around. We gave a great account of ourselves and tried to win every game but unfortunately it just didn’t work.”

Matt’s now 32 and I was interested to hear  what his goals are for the rest of his career. “I want to get over 500 career appearances and reach more goal scoring targets. I’m very determined to keep playing and achieve those targets.”

In 2013, Matt who has a wife and son, posed on the cover of the gay magazine Attitude to show that football is against homophobia and wants no one to feel excluded from the game. I was interested to hear his views on homophobia on football. No Premier League player has come out while still playing in the league. I asked Matt what the impact of a player coming out would be. “You can’t force anyone to do anything. If someone feels like they want to, then it shouldn’t be a problem just because they’re a football player. Because you’re in the spotlight of football, it’s deemed that it’s harder to do. You’ve got to educate people that it’s not wrong, it’s not anything that shouldn’t be done.”

Finally, I asked Matt what his plans are for when he hangs up his boots. “I’m doing my coaching badges at the moment, I hope that once I have finished playing I will be coaching which will give me some options when I finish.” 

The main thing Matt wants to do after playing is spend a bit more time with his family. His busy football schedule means that he misses a lot of weddings and he said that retirement will seem “like another sort of life. But at the minute, I’m not looking at that. I’m looking forward to having a few more years of playing.”

You can find Matt on Twitter at @MrMattJarvis


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