Former Player Remembers: Matty Fryatt

Ahead of last weekend's clash between Leicester City and Hull City, a 3-1 win for the hosts, striker Matty Fryatt spoke to Club historian John Hutchinson about his eventful career on Filbert Way.

Only three players in the City’s history have scored more goals in one season than Fryatt. He holds the Club record for the fastest goal ever scored and was the first City player since 1966 to score 20 goals before Christmas. 

He later played in the 2014 FA Cup final for Hull City against Arsenal. Matty’s football journey started, however, when he was just seven years old: “My mate wanted to play for a local team so I went along with him. We got thrashed but I got the man of the match award and won some sweets. 

"I won it for keeping my position. I didn’t know what that meant! That game was at the end of the season. The next year I started playing with the local team. We had games on the astroturf at the back of Walsall’s stadium. I was picked up through that really. 

"I went into the Walsall Under-9s junior set-up and then went through all the youth systems until I got into the first team.” 

Matty was only 17 when he made his first team debut for Walsall in September 2003. “The manager was Colin Lee (who had been Mark McGhee’s coach at Leicester City). Walsall were in the Championship then. I started the game and was on the bench for the next one. 

"After that, I wasn’t involved which made me wonder what was going on. And then a couple of months down the line it was suggested that I went out on loan to Carlisle United at the bottom of League 2. I didn’t really want to but they said it would be really good for me as I would be playing against men in the Football League. 

"To be honest I’d never really heard of Carlisle. I thought why would I want to go there when I could possibly get back on the bench or start again for Walsall? I did go to Carlisle though and I really enjoyed it. There were quite a lot of experienced players there. 

"I was the youngest player. It was a good experience. I came back after a two month loan and then started playing a bit more for Walsall. Then Colin got the sack (in March 2004). I played about 12 Championship games from March to the end of the season but unfortunately Walsall got relegated. 

“I did really well in the (2004/05) pre-season preparing for League One. Walsall were after another forward but couldn’t manage to sign one. It was my chance. I didn’t really look back. The player-manager was Paul Merson. He was a really good player. 

"Some of the passes he picked out for you were everything you could have wanted. To be supplied with the ball that you want was really good for me as a young forward." 

Matty’s goal-scoring form that season (which included a goal after seven seconds against Bournemouth) resulted in him winning the Saddlers’ Player of the Year and Goal of the Season awards. His reward was international recognition. 

“I’d had a full season with Walsall and then in the summer I was selected for England for the 2005 European Under-19 Championships. I really enjoyed it. I did well, scoring five goals in four games, including a hat-trick in the semi-final against Serbia Montenegro.” 

Inevitably, bigger clubs were showing an interest and in January 2006, after scoring 14 goals for Walsall that season Matty signed for Craig Levein’s Leicester City who were then in the Championship. 

There were three or four teams interested, including Leicester. I had just signed a new deal for Walsall in the November so I didn’t think they would be accepting any bid. But they accepted Leicester’s. I went down to Leicester’s training ground and it was completely different to Walsall. Even when I’d played for Walsall in the Championship the venues tended to be smaller than Leicester’s. It was something else. It was a step up again.

Matty Fryatt

Sixteen days later, Levein was sacked. “It was unfortunate that Craig got the sack so soon but the team were floating near the relegation zone. Rob Kelly came in and did really well. The lads took to him and played some really good stuff. I really enjoyed it from the January until the end of the season. 

"I hit the ground running, (including scoring a goal after nine seconds against Preston North End). We had a good run and I loved it.” 

The following two seasons were very unsettled times at Leicester City. In 2006/2007, Milan Mandaric became the new owner, Kelly got the sack, and Nigel Worthington was only in charge for five games. 

Next year, Martin Allen, Gary Megson and Ian Holloway came and went as managers - there was a huge turnover of players and the Club was relegated to League One. “In the season that Rob left and Nigel Worthington came in at the end, I didn’t play particularly well. I had a few injuries. 

"I was desperate to score and I didn’t start scoring until the eighth or ninth game of the season. The following season Martin Allen came in. He didn’t want to know me. I felt isolated, but when Gary Megson arrived I was pulled straight back into the first team. 

"I was finding a bit of a rhythm and then Gary was off. Frank Burrows and Gerry Taggart took the team for a little bit. I was playing in a different position but quite enjoying it. Then Ian Holloway came in. Martin Allen had already brought in DJ Campbell then Ian brought in Steve Howard and Barry Hayles. 

"We were overloaded with forwards but we didn’t really have anyone supplying us. The forwards seemed to be put on the wing or in behind and this just created problems. I didn’t know from week to week whether I was playing or where I was playing. In the end my confidence was shot."

In the close season, Nigel Pearson was appointed and things really took off for Matty. “I knew nothing about Nigel before he arrived. When he came I was at rock bottom. To suffer relegation like we did was obviously devastating. I needed to get away from it all and then come back for pre-season feeling fresh and ready to work hard. 

I did the pre-season and felt great. I took this into the first game and it worked a treat. Confidence started to flow. We got off to a great start and I just went with it and didn’t look back. I scored 20 goals before Christmas and got consecutive hat-tricks.

Matty Fryatt

Matty scored 32 goals that season. The team went on a Club record run of 23 matches unbeaten, and were top of the table from November onwards. Matty continued: “We had a bit of a wobble towards the end and Peterborough were getting close but then we pulled away again. It was fabulous. 

"It was such a travesty for a club like Leicester to go down to League One. It looks easy when a team bounces back straightaway getting loads of victories but it’s difficult. There have been big teams in League One which have struggled like Leeds and Forest. 

"It was a brilliant season and was just what I needed. It also laid the foundations for the next season.” 

Matty finished the season with a flourish, his two goals at Southend securing promotion. He was voted League One Player of the Year, and was in the PFA League One Team of the Year along with teammates Jack Hobbs and Matt Oakley. The following season (2009/10) Leicester City reached the Play-Off semi-finals against Cardiff City. 

Despite missing nearly three months after breaking his jaw against Doncaster Rovers in February, Matty was still the Club’s top scorer for the season. “We had a strong squad and we had the confidence from the year before. A few players were added. 

"We were always around the play-off positions for most of the season. It was unfortunate when I got injured but we reached the play-offs. I didn’t want to miss out on those. I rushed to get fit. I played in the last match of the league season and scored in the second leg at Cardiff. 

"The day before that play-off, Forest had been beaten by Blackpool in their semi-final. We had already beaten Blackpool twice that season so we felt it was a question of ‘Let’s beat Cardiff and once we have done that we should be up’. However we lost the first game 1-0 at home to Cardiff. 

"We turned it around in Cardiff winning 3-2, levelling the aggregate score. Then we lost in the penalty shoot-out.” 

That summer Nigel Pearson left to manage Hull City. “Nigel leaving had a massive effect on me. I found it difficult when they changed the manager. Paulo Sousa came in and he probably wanted to change too much too soon. We had got to where we were not by playing spectacular football but it was winning football. 

"It didn’t work with Paulo and Sven (Goren Eriksson) replaced him as manager (in October 2010). Sven didn’t give me too much of a chance. The year before I had scored a lot of goals up to my injury and then had come back but Sven preferred to use players from the Premier League." 

In January 2011, Matty signed for Pearson’s Hull City for a fee exceeding £1 million. Matty explained: “I was nowhere near the first team picture at Leicester. Nigel was at Hull, and I heard that when the January window was opened, he wanted to sign me. 

"I wanted to play for someone who appreciated what I could do. I went there and had a good start. As was the case with Leicester, I went there in January and enjoyed it until the end of the season.” 

The following season, (2011/12), Matty scored 16 goals in 46 appearances, although Pearson rejoined Leicester City in November 2011. Injuries restricted his appearances in 2012/13 when Steve Bruce’s Hull City were promoted back to the Premier League.

But, at the end of the following season, Matty scored in the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United and played in the FA Cup final against Arsenal. Matty recalled: “We went on a Cup run, and the players chosen tended to be those not really playing in the Premier League campaign. 

"It was great. The draw was kind to us and then we were thinking ‘just one more game’ and then it was the semi-final and then it was the final... I had a lone striker’s role in the final. I think I am still recovering! We got off to a great start going 2-0 up after 10 minutes and gave everything but it just wasn’t enough. 

"There was wave after wave of Arsenal attacking. We gave it as good a shot as we could but it wasn’t to be. We lost 3-2 after extra time. I look back on that Cup Final with pride." 

Matty left Hull City to join Nottingham Forest in June 2014. He concluded by saying: “Looking back through all these memories, there’s stuff I’m really proud of. I only think about the good times that I had rather than the times when things didn’t quite work out well. The Leicester fans were really good to me. The football club was great. I absolutely loved watching them last season.”




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