Starting out under Craig Levein’s management, the Nuneaton-born forward was a key figure in promotion from League 1 three years later during Nigel Pearson’s first tenure in charge of the Foxes. It was quite the time to be at Leicester City.
After making his name as an England Under-19s international at Walsall, he made a total of 283 appearances for the Foxes and the Tigers, scoring 93 goals. He scored a total of 134 goals.
He netted in all four divisions too, set LCFC Club records (twice) for scoring the quickest goal, scored successive hat-tricks, achieved promotions and – albeit for Hull – also played in the Premier League and appeared in an FA Cup Final.
“I was brought up in Burntwood near Lichfield,” Fryatt explained. “I went to Walsall when I was about nine and progressed all the way up through their youth teams into their first team.
Up against Michael Carrick during Walsall’s First Division fixture at West Ham United in March 2004.
“I made my debut in September 2003 when I was a 17-year-old, in a cup game against Bolton, who had players like Jay-Jay Okocha, Bruno N’Gotty and Kevin Nolan.
“At around Christmas, I was loaned to Carlisle for two months. It helped my development. I enjoyed it. It’s what I needed. When I came back to Walsall from Carlisle, I played in the Championship. As a centre-forward, I benefitted hugely playing with Paul Merson, who was player-manager. He played me in all the time. He had that little bit of magic that could unlock a defence.”
In the season following Walsall’s relegation to League 1 in 2004, Matty’s scored 15 league goals. These included Walsall’s fastest-ever goal, which he scored in seven seconds against AFC Bournemouth and his first hat-trick, struck in a home match against Huddersfield.
During this season, Matty was selected for the England Under-19s side: “I‘d had some involvement with the Under-18s and managed to get into the Under-19s European Youth Championship squad.
“I scored a hat-trick in the semi-final against Serbia & Montenegro and played in the final against France. The following season, when I signed for Leicester in January 2006, I’d already scored 31 league and cup goals for Walsall.”
Celebrating one of his 32 goals in the Foxes' successful League 1 campaign.
At 19 years old, Matty was signed by Leicester City Manager Craig Levein, who left 16 days later.
“Rob Kelly, who replaced Levein, had watched me numerous times when I was at Walsall,” Matty continued. “My youth coach at Walsall, Mike Halsall, was Rob’s brother-in-law. My first game for Leicester was as a sub at Sheffield Wednesday. A week later, I scored my first Leicester City goal, when I made my first start in my home debut against Cardiff.”
Later that season, Matty’s goal against Preston North End after nine seconds was the fastest goal ever scored by a Leicester City player. The following season (2006/07) was a difficult one for the Foxes, finishing 19th in the Championship.
Milan Mandarić was confirmed as the Club’s new owner in February 2007, and Kelly left the Club in April 2007, to be replaced by Nigel Worthington until the end of the season.
“That was an indifferent season for the team and for myself,” he admits. “As much as I tried, it didn’t quite go according to plan. The turmoil of following season (2007/08) affected me more. There were too many changes in management and personnel. Martin Allen came in as Manager in the summer of 2007 and he wanted to sell me.
The 44-year-old now regularly works as a pundit for Foxes Hub.
“I wasn’t training with the first team and then he left after four or five games. Gary Megson came in. He put me back in the team. Then he left after six weeks. Gerry Taggart and Frank Burrows took over for a couple of games and then Ian Holloway came in November for the rest of the season.
“On top of that, as well as me playing as a striker, we’d got Iain Hume up front together with DJ Campbell and Carl Cort, who’d been brought in by Martin Allen. Then Ian Holloway brought in Barry Hayles and Steve Howard. So now there were six forwards.
“Holloway tried to accommodate all of us, so we’d have forwards in behind, forwards up front, and forwards on the wing and it just didn’t work. That season, 40 players played in the first team! It was a mess and the Club was relegated to League 1 for the only time in its history.”
Following relegation, Holloway was sacked and Pearson was appointed Manager. He started to rebuild the team.
“Nigel was huge,” Matty continued. “He stripped everything back. He was organised. Everyone knew what they needed to do, and we could count on each other. We became a solid team.
It was nice to get over the line and get the job done. Other teams have gone down to League 1 and struggled to get out of it, but we did it the first time.Matty Fryatt
“At the back end of the previous season, I was in and out of the team, so whenever I did play, my confidence was low. Every time anything fell for me, I lacked any sort of conviction. I let myself down. Getting relegated hurt even more.
“That close season, I had time away from it all and thought: ‘I’m going to be the best version of what I can be and be confident. I want to have a good pre-season and kick on from that’. It was just something I had to put right.”
That is what happened. Matty played in every game that season. The Club became League 1 champions. He scored 20 goals before Christmas, the first Leicester City player to do this since Derek Dougan in 1966. He hit hat-tricks in successive matches, the first time this had been done by a Leicester player for 83 years.
His final goal total for the season was 32. He was named as League 1 Player of the Year and was in the PFA’s League 1 Team of the Year. Promotion and the League 1 title were both confirmed with a 2-0 victory over Southend United at Roots Hall with two games to go, with Matty scoring both goals.
“It was warm that day,” Matty remembered. “But it was nice to get over the line and get the job done. Other teams have gone down to League 1 and struggled to get out of it, but we did it the first time.
Fryatt and Pearson celebrate winning League 1 at Southend United in 2009.
“Nigel knew what he wanted from the team from the outset. We got off to a good start based on his ideas and structures and we built on that. You always knew where you stood with him. I liked that. Nigel is always a person with authority.”
The next season (2009/10), now in the Championship, the Foxes reached the play-offs for a place in the Premier League. Unfortunately, Matty missed 16 of the last 17 league games due to a double fractured jaw.
“We carried our league momentum and togetherness into the Championship,” Matty recalled. “We were always in and around the play-off positions. Then I got an injury against Doncaster Rovers in February. The player I was up against turned at the last moment.
“His elbow hit the bottom of my chin and as I went to ground, the top part of my jaw was also broken because of how I landed. It was a double fracture. I was wired up and had to get fluids through a straw. Having the wires taken off was painful.
“During my recovery time, I lost three stone. I had to put this weight back on to get match fit. But you can’t do that without games and I couldn’t play in games because I had to avoid contact. I was desperate to get back for the play-offs.“
Scoring against Sunderland in the FA Cup Quarter-Final in 2014.
Matty came on as substitute for the last game of the season against Middlesbrough and in the 1-0 defeat in the play-off semi-final against Cardiff City in the home leg. He started in the second leg in Cardiff and scored in a 3-2 victory after extra time, bringing the scores level on aggregate, but the Foxes lost the subsequent penalty shootout.
That summer, Pearson left the Club to join Hull City. He was replaced by Paulo Sousa.
“Nigel leaving was a massive shock,” Matt says. “It was out of the blue. We were a settled team. All of a sudden, we had a new manager, new ideas and new players. It just didn’t quite click.”
By the end of September 2010, Leicester were bottom of the Championship: “We were battered 6-1 at Portsmouth on a Friday night live Sky game. I came on as a sub and was sub a few days later at Norwich when I scored twice in a 4-3 defeat before I was sent off.
“After I’d scored my second, their centre-back sprinted 15 yards and lay on top of the ball in the goal. I kicked the ball from under him and the ref gave me a red card! Paulo was sacked after the game. The new manager was Sven-Göran Eriksson. I was suspended for his first three games.
The forward also scored for Hull in their semi-final victory over Sheffield United at Wembley.
“He starting bringing in players he knew, including former Premier League players, and we ended up having two squads. These were Nigel’s Championship team and Paulo’s signings and then the players Sven brought in.
“Some of Sven’s signings were really good but others didn’t work. We had come so close the previous year. In the space of six months, everything had changed. For the first time in my career, I wasn’t playing and I couldn’t see a way out at the time.”
Halfway through the season, in January 2011, Matty rejoined Pearson at Hull City for a reported fee of over £1M. “Moving to Hull, and playing for a manager I’d had success with, just seemed to fit,” Matty explained.
Hull finished 11th in the Championship at the end of the season, one place below Leicester, Matty scoring nine goals in 22 league games. The following season (2011/12), he played in all 46 of Hull’s league games, netting 16 times. During that season, in November, Pearson returned to manage Leicester.
Matty recalled: “When Steve Bruce became manager (in June 2012), I missed most of that season through injury, at the end of which Hull were promoted to the Premier League. The next season (2013/14), I went on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and came back to Hull around Christmas time.
Competing against Arsenal's Mikel Arteta in the FA Cup Final.
“Those players not getting a regular game in the Premier League played in the FA Cup matches and before you knew it, we were in the quarter-final, the semi-final and then the cup final, by which time the first team regulars were back in the side. The main priority, of course, was to stay in the Premier League, but it was a whirlwind six months and such an enjoyable time.
“I scored in the semi-final in the 5-3 win over Sheffield United. We made hard work of it, but it was nice to score at Wembley. In the final, against Arsenal, we were 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes, then about 10 minutes later, [Santi] Cazorla scored with a wonderful free-kick in off the bar.
“They scored again in the second half. The match went to extra-time. It was a case of: ‘Can we defend and maybe get one on the counter?’ It was like the Alamo, but in the end, they had a bit too much and Aaron Ramsey scored their winner.”
It was Matty’s last game for Hull City. In June 2014, he moved to Nottingham Forest. His second and third season there was bedeviled by injury and he retired from football in February 2018.
Matty concluded by saying: “I have some great memories. To score in all four divisions, to win promotion, to score at Wembley and to play in an FA Cup Final were huge things for me. I have great memories playing for Leicester and Hull.”
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