Meet Matt Taylor, Manager of Exeter City Football Club
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye
Photos by Pip Andersen
On a baking-hot summers day a few months ago, I made my way in a heavily air-conditioned car to Exeter City Football Club’s Cliff Hill Training Ground to meet with their new gaffer, Matt Taylor. Taking on the role from his and the club’s previous manager, Paul Tisdale, Matt came across as a man on a mission.
Originally from Lancashire in the North-West of England, Matt struck me as a ‘no-nonsense Northerner’. With a look of steely determination in his eyes and an inkling that he wouldn’t suffer fools gladly, I could tell that I was in the presence of someone well used to speaking their mind and holding their own. It was no surprise to hear, therefore, about his successful footballing career which saw him play for a variety of clubs, most notably Swindon Town, Charlton Athletic and Exeter City. It was at Exeter City where Matt played the majority of his career, in fact, making 147 appearances and scoring 17 goals; not a bad return at all for a defender who had grown up playing as a goalkeeper.
Towards the end of his playing career, Matt went through a vitally important transition, attending Hartpury College where he gained additional coaching qualifications and experience, which put him in a fantastic position to be considered for the role at Exeter City when it became available.
Over the next twenty minutes or so, we discussed his recent move back to the area, his management style and his plans for the squad moving into the 18/19 season. I found him to be a man of few words (but well-chosen ones) and I got a strong impression that he had a crystal-clear idea of the brand of football that he wanted to instil into his squad during pre-season. No need for foreign ‘warm-weather training’ this year either due to the prolonged heat wave that we’ve experienced in the region. I joked with Matt that he had brought the sun with him to Exeter and that this was a good omen for the season; a comment he smirked at but shrugged off, saying, “Let’s just take one game at a time and see how the season pans out. I am already proud of the team of players and staff that I have around me here at the club. An amazing group of professionals and also a fantastic group of fans too. I feel excited for the start of the season and there is a sense of freshness around the club, that comes with a change of manager. The players are doing their best to impress and that is making my job both enjoyable and challenging as I try to work out my best team moving forward.”
When I asked him if he could categorise his management style, it was clear that he didn’t want to fulfil any of the usual football manager clichés (The Tactician, The Man-Manager or The Special One for example). Instead, Matt simply said, “The art of coaching and management has changed a great deal over the years. The core skill involved nowadays is building relationships with your players, understanding them and speaking their language. I believe the best managers are the ones that embrace a variety of approaches and find a balance between some of those caricatures of what being a football manager is. Exeter City is going to stay the same, regardless of who the manager is. We will keep producing excellent young players and promoting them internally within our squad. We’ll keep trying to play a positive, forward-thinking brand of football and we’ll continue to have an amazing fan-base. My job is to complement those strong suits that the club already has.”
Clearly, at this time of year, transfers become a hot topic of conversation around football clubs, so I thought I’d see if Matt had any news to share on that front. Somewhat predictably, he remained professionally vague, simply saying that “There will likely be a few players coming in and a few players going out. Standard business for a club like ours.”
As our time together drew to a close, we walked around the training facilities to take a few photos and, in a rare moment of lowering his guard, I managed to get a laugh out of Matt by telling him a joke that I couldn’t possibly repeat in print. Needless to say, sat below a professional and steely exterior is a warm, likeable and friendly guy.
I left thinking that, if I were one of his players, I would follow wherever he led and probably have a few laughs along the way.
Great to meet you, Matt. Here’s to a fantastic season.
UP THE CITY!