Matty Fryatt

Fryatt: We Were Together At Leicester City

Former Foxes striker Matty Fryatt looks back on his footballing career, from a season as champions to the lows of relegation.

In 2006, Leicester City completed the signing of teenage sensation, Matty Fryatt from Walsall FC, for the low-cut price of £135,000. 

A Foxes career spanning over six years, which included 62 goals and one league title, made Fryatt a fan favourite among the Leicester faithful. 

To this day, Fryatt still holds the record for the fastest-ever Leicester City goal, when it took him just nine seconds to find the net, in a 2-1 defeat to Preston in April of 2006. He was also the first player in 42 years to reach 20 goals before Christmas and was the first to score successive hat-tricks in 83 years.

Now a 36-year-old, and Under-15s coach at Walsall, Fryatt spent an afternoon with us at the Meynell Ingram Arms in Burton to talk us through his playing days, with honest reflections of team-mates, managers, and fans, as the former Fox unravels the rollercoaster tale of his time on Filbert Way. 

“I got into football with a friend who lived around the corner,” the former striker told LCFC.com, as he began telling the story of his footballing career. 

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Matty Fryatt
Matty Fryatt

Posing in the 2005 retro away shirt, available now at LCFC.com/shop and in the Foxes Fanstore.

“I went and played this game, we lost 9-2, but I got Man of the Match because I held my position and stayed on the wing. I got a bag of sweets at the end of the game!

“The following season, I got picked up by Hammerwich. I was there for three or four years. It was 11-a-side on full pitches, with massive goals and tiny little goalkeepers.

“I was a bit like Jamie Vardy back then believe it or not! I was up top, quicker than the rest, and you’ve just got to beat a ‘keeper who’s got no chance! You’d score a hatful.

“We played a tournament at the back of Walsall’s stadium and played the home side themself. I think we beat them and then they said they’d take three of the lads on a trial and I was one of the chosen few.”

After spending a few weeks on trial, mainly in goal, Walsall signed a nine-year-old Fryatt who explained had to wait for his chance to impress. 

“It was only once Walsall A played Walsall B that I really got noticed playing for the B side, he said. "We won 5-1. After that I continually played and got recognised. You get noticed when you score goals, and I carried on scoring at Walsall.” 

The young striker forced the hand of first team manager, Colin Lee, to giving Fryatt a chance in the Championship: “My debut was against Bolton in the League Cup. I got the last 10 minutes against players like Mario Jardel, Kevin Nolan, and Jay-Jay Okocha. We lost 3-1 but it was a good experience.

“Lee didn’t really trust in me - I was shipped out on loan to Carlisle in League 2 to get used to the men’s game. 

“I came back in February and played against Preston in March. I scored and played well. Walsall were sixth or seventh on Boxing Day, but eventually went down that season.”

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Matty Fryatt
Matty Fryatt

Fryatt scored 32 goals in all competitions during the 2008/09 season.

Walsall then replaced Lee with Paul Merson, who took temporary charge, and the forward recalled an unusual experience at Norwich: “[Darren] Huckerby is tearing our defence apart that day and we’re 2-0 down at half-time. They’re all over us, clearly the better team. 

“I remember Merse [Paul Merson], at half-time, came in and said: ‘You know what? We’re going to go for it!’ He put me and himself on, so we’d go with four forwards essentially. ‘All out, we’re going to go for it!’ he told us. We lost 5-0.

“You may laugh, but Walsall went down that season on goal difference by one goal. If we’d have shut up shop, it could have been 2 or 3-0 and we’d have stayed up.”

Becoming a regular in League 1 for Walsall, the young striker caught the eye of Leicester City, who admired Fryatt, a striker that offered something different to their original frontmen in their roster.

“They wanted a poacher type to compliment to other three (Iain Hume, Elvis Hammond and Mark De Vries). Once I saw the stadium, it was a no brainer. It was the next level. I’d been at Walsall since I was nine and I loved it there, but it was the next step up. 

Craig [Levein] was only there for about two weeks with me, but I felt like the players had a bit of fear of him. They were a little bit scared. It was that sort of style. But I was just a kid, I was fearless back then.

“We had a consistent team. I wouldn’t say we were world beaters, but we were solid, and we had enough to do well. But we needed more backing at the time. If you look at the signings, it didn’t quite work out the following season. It was a season of nothingness.”

With new chairman, Milan Mandarić, taking control, this saw the conveyor belt of managers be switched on. Nigel Worthington came in to help avoid relegation, which was achieved, but wasn’t enough to prevent being replaced by Martin Allen

“There was a hell of a lot of players coming in. Some you could just tell weren’t going to be Championship ready, without being too bad on them.

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Matty Fryatt
Matty Fryatt

The former striker is currently an Under-15s coach at Walsall FC.

“Some of the stuff at the stadium was a little bizarre. He wanted all the flowers to be blue, white, and yellow to match the kit, but does that really matter?

“He also changed the warm-up room into a ‘sofa room’. He had movie posters on the wall, with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger up there. It was like going to the cinema."

"It was the chill room, but before a game, you’re not going to go into the Club, put your feet up and crack the films on,” he said comically. 

Further down the line, Ian Holloway became manager, and Fryatt admitted he had never known a character like him. 

“He could really wow a room," he said. "He had everyone in the canteen, including the staff, and he started jumping up on tables and delivering speeches, talking about Coach Carter. He loved that film. 

“He spoke about how we needed to be together and outlined all his ideas. It must have been about five or six hours on his introduction day. You leave thinking: ‘Wow, he’s a character!’ One had gone and then here’s this guy, who’s larger than life.

“Sadly, it didn’t really work out, did it? He had five forwards and he wanted to keep everyone happy. We’d have two up front, one behind, and forwards on the wing. 

“Forwards don’t want to be crossing it for another forward. Unless you’re rapid, you’re not really suited to that inside role or being used as an out-and-out winger. That caused a problem.

“That team should never have gone down, never. He’d probably say that he’d have done things a little bit differently. It was a forced team. I never felt there was a togetherness.”

Fryatt told us about one Holloway story – a night on the south coast: “We never did well at Southampton. We always lost. I remember it was about 10 or 11 in the hotel and some of the lads had taken sleeping pills to get some rest before the game and he calls everyone down for a team meeting in the squash courts. 

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Matty Fryatt
Matty Fryatt

Fryatt was the PFA Player of the Year in the 2008/09 League One season.

“He’s got bandages all over him. Apparently, he’s dressed as Patch from Dodgeball. He’s got his staff with him and we’re in the viewing area above looking down on this. His staff all start throwing size five footballs at him.

“It’s bouncing off the wall and missing his head. If any one of them did hit his head, he’d probably put himself in A&E. He then says: ‘Get the boys down here! This is what we need! This is what we’re about!’"

Reluctantly the players got involved, but Fryatt told us how, unsurprisingly, it didn’t quite have the impact that was intended: “We turned up for the game the next day and got smashed. I think we were 2-0 down after 10 minutes.”

Through all the stories, Matty could see what the managers were trying to achieve, but it didn’t change the fact the Club would be in League 1 the next season.

He said: "‘I’m not saying we were a special team - but strong enough to stay in the Championship, definitely. 

“It was the first time in my short career that I had no confidence, the doubts came in. Even if there was no ‘keeper, I think I’d have kicked it wide.”

Luckily for the centre-forward, form did return for the Foxes, as the appointment of Nigel Pearson sparked life back into the Club: “There was a sense that he knew what he was after. I went into pre-season games determined to impress and I think I scored four or five, and that continued into the season.

“I scored 20 goals before Christmas, but I’d say the season after was my best at Leicester. I was just tapping them in, Steve [Howard] had done all the work! But that partnership really came to fruition. It felt better to be a Leicester City player.

“We knew what the minimum was. You knew your job and there was more organisation, and a lot of people took to it. He (Pearson) formed a team that could do what was needed.

Following promotion back to the Championship, Fryatt couldn’t see why new heights couldn’t be reached, labelling the 2009/10 season the best he ever had with Leicester.

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Matty Fryatt
Matty Fryatt

City recorded 96 points in their title-winning season back to the Championship.

He recalled: “We got the sense in the first couple of games that there was nothing to be scared of... why can’t we carry on? It was a very organised, together, and solid squad. There was usually enough to get a goal and keep other teams out."

He spoke of that dreaded play-off game: “Cardiff was painful. We knew Blackpool had got to the final and we’d beaten them twice in the season already. It just felt like we’d got so close and yet so far.

“It was taken away from us cruelly and I don’t know why that change happened, with Nigel leaving and Paulo [Sousa] coming in. I could understand what he was trying to do. Maybe it would’ve worked over time, but we were trying to change too much.

“We weren’t that type of team, that would be free-flowing, and playing out from the back. Some of the goals we conceded… it was a mess. Sousa’s last game was Norwich away. I remember it because I got a red card. He thanked me for scoring and getting sent off!"

Not long after, Fryatt’s six-year spell in the Midlands came to an end, as the striker would move north to sign for Hull City. 

“I loved the first spell of it,” The forward said, concluding his time here. “I know I didn’t score the goals I wanted to in that second Championship season, but I enjoyed it. Then there was the mess, followed by a good patch before I left.

“The fans were unreal and when it’s booming, Leicester is a great place to be. I know being in League 1 isn’t what the Club would ever want, but maybe going down is what was needed to come up again.”

Fryatt believed there was a ‘togetherness’ formed throughout his playing days with the Foxes and says he’s still in contact with several his old team-mates.

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Matty Fryatt
Matty Fryatt

Fryatt finished his playing career at Nottingham Forest in 2017.

“Michael Morrison and Jack Hobbs, I still talk to quite a few of them - I obviously had big respect for Steve (Howard) and that worked on the pitch," he said.

“I don’t think you realise what a good club it is until you go elsewhere. The grass isn’t always greener.”

Jumping to today, the former Leicester striker is taken back by the recent history and development happening on Filbert way.

He concluded: "I couldn’t just walk in now; I’d get stopped by security! I’ve been back since and I felt: ‘God, did I used to play here?!’ The calibre of the players now and the level they’re at…

“They’ve had some fantastic years and it’s gone to a different level. Can they sustain that? There’s no reason why not. It’s not always going to be Premier League titles here and FA Cups there but keeping that team spirit will help them on the pitch.”

Talking about the new training ground in Seagrave, the former Leicester man believes it shows dedication towards the growth from the club, and rivals that of even the national team. 

“The training ground is something else, it’s unbelievable," he said. "It blows St.George’s Park out of the water in my opinion.

“For me before, it was a tight training ground, but it had everything you needed. Now it’s just ‘wow’ – it’s a whole different level of professionalism. From the outside, you certainly think: ‘they’ve come a long way’."

Fryatt will be considered by most, as a true servant to the club during a period of high’s and low’s. An impressive Foxes’ career considering ‘it all started out with a mate round the corner, playing for a bag of sweets’. 

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