Unpublished memoirs Ep 4 – Matt Heywood

In 2001 Andy King signed centre half Matt Heywood from Burnley, over 200 appearances later he would leave for rivals Bristol City and in this latest edition of our catch up series he chats to us all things STFC and beyond.

Best Decision I ever made

What were your thoughts when signing for Town on the club and leaving Burnley?

First of all I was told by Stan Ternant (Burnley manager) that I needed to playing regularly so he said “You’re going to Peterborough next week to train with them”. He then pulled me the next day and said “In fact Swindon would be a better club for you. You’re going down for a week on Monday”. I had no choice!!
When you’re young you think you’re going to stay at a club forever. I hadn’t played in the first team for 18 months so he was right, I needed to play.
I remember coming down with Sean Reid on the Monday. Training was frozen off but I ended up playing head tennis at the ground with Andy King. I couldn’t believe this guy was the manager! He was so loud and just taking the piss out of everyone. The contrast between Stan Ternant and Kingy was black and white.
I played in a reserve game at Leyton Orient on the Wednesday. Kingy pulled me the next day and said that he wanted me to sign and play in the first time on Saturday! I was a bit unsure at first because I was leaving a Championship club and Swindon were in a League 1 relegation battle. The game was called off so I was given the weekend to think it over. I did, I signed, best decision I ever made!
I was buzzing to be back playing and played the remaining 20 odd games. We kept quite a few clean sheets, nicked a few wins and stayed up by the skin of our teeth.

You claimed a clean sweep of awards in 2002 – how were you feeling at this point?

Obviously, it was great feeling to be recognised for the season I’d had. My confidence had grown throughout the season but I’m not exactly a big-time Charlie or flash harry so I just got on with heading it and booting it!
The final day of the season was a great day though. I got presented with all the awards before kick-off, then scored the goal and got MOM in a 1-1 with Wycombe. As far as days go that was a pretty good one!

I’m long retired but that is the game that p****s me off even now!”

You made over 200 apps for Town – any moments that stand out?

I’d say beating Oxford away 2-0 in my first season. Steve Robinson scored 2 volleys. I don’t think he even had a shot for the next 3 seasons!
My first ever league goal away at Brentford in that same season. We won 1-0 and it helped keep us up that season. The biggest one and not a good one was the play off semi against Brighton. We battered them in the home game and lost, then battered them away but lost on pens. I’m long retired but that is the game that p****s me off even now!

Video from wearebrighton on Youtube

Who were the best players you played with at Swindon?

Best players played with would be a tough one. Outright best would be James Milner. He was only on loan for a short time but he was an unbelievable player and was only 17/18 at the time. I think his career tells you all you need to know.
Super Sammy was absolute top drawer. Great touch, 2 footed, awesome finisher. I think him and Tommy upfront that season were as good a front pairing as you’ll get in the third tier of football. I’d have to give a shout out to Reevesy too because he was an amazing partner for me to have, especially in the first 2 seasons. His experience and leadership was great for me to learn from.

How did you view your relationship with the fans?

I think as a whole I had a good relationship with the fans. I realise I was never going to be a fans favourite, I wasn’t that type of player. I wasn’t a goal scorer or a tricky winger that’ll get you off your seat. I was what I was, a big lump of a centre back who would head it and kick it and organise others. I played pretty much every week and I think the fans appreciated that I was a consistently steady performer. Trust me, I saw Swindon a couple of times last year and they were crying out for someone to just stand there and head crosses away!
Obviously one sour incident was Cheltenham away where I reacted to one fan (not fans). I regretted it but at the end of the day if that idiot would’ve walked up to me in the street and said what he said I’d of broke his nose!
All in all I loved my 4.5 years at Swindon and I’ve always had a warm reception when I’ve been back.

I would never have left to go to Oxford

When you eventually did leave it was for Bristol C – how did you feel about this knowing the rivalry?

I’d made my mind up that I was going to leave Swindon towards the end of the season. We all feared that the following season could be a struggle. Tommy had already left, I knew Sam was leaving, Kingys budget had been slashed again so he offered me the best he could which was a one year contract. At the end of the day football was a job for me and the fact that Bristol City were offering me a 3-year contract was one I couldn’t turn down. Swindon fans might not agree but it’s a big club and it was a chance for me to try and have a fresh start and improve myself.

As it turned out two knee ops in my first season knocked me back after a positive start. Let’s be straight, I would never have left to go to Oxford!
I was very honest when I left, the club was a shambles! For 4 years, we had been getting paid by cheque on random dates, 2,3,4 weeks late. We’d get bits and bobs to tide us over but it was no way to run a professional football club.
If you work at Honda and Toyota come in and offer better pay, longer contract, better prospects then you’re going to leave, end of. Anyone that says otherwise is lying!
It felt weird coming back to play against Swindon but I sort of enjoyed the boo’s.

Looking back it’s safe to say that Swindon was my favourite club and where I enjoyed my time the most.

I’d swap all that for the chance to play Bristol City in that Play Off final at the Millennium Stadium

In your career you made over 300 apps – what career highlights do you have?

I’d like to say my career highlights were numerous promotions and playing at Wembley but I managed neither!

I think actually making my first team debut for Burnley was pretty special. Coming through as an old school YTS as it was then to play ‘proper’ football. My 2nd start was away at Maine Road in front of 32,000 as a 19 year old. My dads side of the family are from Manchester and are all United fans, so they were all there. I was so nervous travelling to the game that I didn’t want to play! Running out of the tunnel to a roar (6000 Burnley fans) was Goosebumps stuff and I remember thinking it was like MOTD! I had a very good game in a 2-2 draw. Obviously I did what any 19 year old would do and went out partying that night. (It was allowed in those days!!)

Individually winning the awards at Swindon was great. I managed to do the same at Brentford in 2007/08 too but to be honest I’d swap all that for the chance to play Bristol city in that playoff final at the Millennium Stadium!!!

What you up to now?
I retired from football in 2010 due to a chronic knee injury that needed 6 operations. I spent 3 years working as a personal trainer and qualified as a sports masseur. For the last 4 years I’ve been a postman in Cirencester and currently live in Stroud with my girlfriend and 7 month old daughter.
Unfortunately, my knee is shot so even a game of 5 a side is a no go!
But hey ho, ”twas good while it lasted.

My thanks to Matt for taking time to speak to me.

Missed any of the series so far?

https://smfyfe.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/unpublished-memoirs-ep-1-gareth-davies/

https://smfyfe.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/jack-smith/

https://smfyfe.wordpress.com/2018/02/07/unpublished-memoirs-ep-3-giuilano-grazioli/

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