Great Harwood Legends

Matt Derbyshire

Matt joined the Robins in 2002 from Darwen after the Salmoners scrapped their reserve/youth team in order to accommodate their ladies team. Harwood manager John Hughes grasped the opportunity to sign Matt along with a couple of his team mates.

* Before signing on at the Anchor, Matt played for his school team at Our Lady and St. Johns RC High in Blackburn , although he harboured no thoughts of being a professional footballer at that time.

“I didn’t really think about it at school, only when I went to Great Harwood.”

The only other club that he turned out for was Blackburn United Youth.

* He wasn’t thrust into first team action right away as the going could get pretty tough for a 16 year-old. Defenders at NWCFL level rarely take prisoners so Matt’s appearances in the 2002/03 season were quite rare. His first goal was against his former club Darwen on October 18 th in the Division Two Trophy. He helped to run the defence ragged during an impressive 4-2 victory. That goal is the one that Matt rates as his favourite during his two years with the Robins.

* He had to wait until the final month of the season for his next goal but it started an avalanche of goals for the enigmatic striker. He hit two in a 5-2 home win against Norton United and the following 12 days saw him hit 5 more in three home games. Two against Holker Old Boys as we ran out 3-0 winners, a single strike against Blackpool Mechanics as the Seasiders were thrashed 3-1 and another brace as Ashton Town were hammered 4-1.

* The beginning of the 2003/04 season had management and supporters rubbing their hands in anticipation.

* August 30 th looked to be a date where Matt could make a name for himself as higher opposition in the shape of North Ferriby United arrived at the Showground for an FA Cup tie. Sadly for Matt the referee had other ideas and was determined to show the youngster just who was the star of the show. Our ace forward was booked just after kick-off for knocking the ball into the net after being flagged offside but his second booking and subsequent dismissal was nothing short of a disgrace. As Matt raced into the United half he was crudely stopped in his tracks by a late tackle. The clown in black then pulled out a yellow card apparently to book the offender but stunned not only the Harwood faithful, but also the North Ferriby players, when he showed it to Matt, for ‘diving’, and pointed towards the dressing rooms. Even visiting skipper Rob Dewhurst, the ex-Rovers player pleaded for common sense, but to no avail.

* The following game Matt was missing as he had trials with the Rovers and how it showed as the Robins went down 7-0 to Cammell Laird in the FA Vase. Unfortunately for the Robins, Matt missed several games whilst away on trial but more than made up for it when he appeared in the Red of Harwood.

* September 2003 saw the scouts flocking to the Showground and they included representatives from Burnley and Plymouth Argyle amongst others. They weren’t disappointed as Matt’s performances flew right off the scale. He was now unstoppable as Daisy hill found to their cost when he hit a hat-trick in a 6-0 home win. The following week he hit two more against Darwen as we scraped home 4-3. Five days later a trip to Castleton Gabriels saw the home side torn apart as Matt hammered in all four goals. Two days on and another strike helped us to a point at home to Cheadle Town although that game saw his strike partner John Eastham badly injured and out for the rest of the season. That left the club with a problem as manager John Hughes stated the obvious by telling the world that Matt Derbyshire wouldn’t be here for too long

“So get down to the Showground and see him while you can!”

* Still in September, a trip to Nelson in the Division Two Trophy gave him another two-goal haul, both spectacular efforts, as the Robins forced a 3-3 draw.

* The next weekend Maine Road were dazzled as Matt struck twice in the first half to secure our passage into the next round of the League Challenge Cup. Two points were dropped at home to Ashton Town but the game was once again lit up by another Derbyshire goal. Three days later it was off to the seaside and what was arguably Matt’s greatest performance in a Harwood shirt. From the very first minute he made complete monkeys of the Blackpool defence who had performed so well in the early part of the season and were good NWCFL players. One in the first half and two more in the second had even the home supporters drooling. When our hero was taken off in the second half after John Hughes had decided to ‘declare’, the Blackpool defenders clasped their hands together and dropped to their knees in thanks.

* Not surprisingly that was his final game as the Rovers made an offer of £20,000, a club record for Harwood. It was a dream move for Matt who’d been a Rovers supporter all his life. How ironic that he already worked at Ewood coaching youngsters in the B.R.I.C.!

* Although he enjoyed his time with the Robins and thought that playing semi-professional for them was quite satisfactory, the move to Ewood took his career onto a whole new level. * He managed to score in 8 of his last 9 games and hit 18 goals in that time. He scored in just 13 games for Harwood and when he scored, Harwood never lost – ten wins and three draws. Sadly his number of appearances is unknown but his goals total was 21 league goals, 3 Division Two Trophy goals and 2 in the League Challenge Cup.

* The best player that matt played with at Harwood was John Eastham.

“He helped me more than anybody and set up most of my goals.”

* Playing for the Rovers Reserves and highly successful Youth team, Matt hit the target regularly but found his route to the first team very difficult. He had to wait until the final game of the 2004/05 season when he came from ‘nowhere’ to be named on the bench. Happily he came on towards the end of the game which was also good news for the Robins as they received a further payment thanks to a ‘sell-on’ clause in the contract.

* Plymouth Argyle who had monitored his progress since first watching him at the Showground, took him on loan but unfortunately the Pilgrims manager was soon shown the door and the new man didn’t fancy him. His appearances at Home Park were therefore strictly limited but after returning to the Rovers for a while he was shipped out to Wrexham for some first team experience and what an experience it was as he soon topped the Welshmen’s goalscoring charts.

* With the dire financial situation at the Racecourse, a permanent signing was never really on and anyway, Matt was still determined to break into the Rovers 1 st team.

* Despite continuing to score regularly for the Reserves, big money signings meant that he had to bide his time, but his attitude, dedication and undoubted skill was noted by manager Mark Hughes who showed great faith by offering Matt another contract at the end of the 2005/06 season.

The next campaign began as the last had ended with Matt starring for the second string and his performances saw him once again make the bench for Rovers Premiership game at home to Fulham. Unfortunately he only made it on for the final few minutes but was back as a substitute for the next home game against Newcastle . With the Magpies threatening to run riot after building up a 2-0 half-time lead, Matt was brought on for the whole of the second half and helped to get the Blues right back in the game.

Decmber13th 2006 was another date for the Derbyshire archives when Matt, now 20, started his first game for the team as they took on the unfortunately named Nancy in the UEFA cup. With just a few minutes gone he found himself with just the keeper to beat but a great save kept out his shot. That was as close as he got to scoring, mainly thanks to a total lack of creativity from most of his team mates, but a lively display saw him play for the whole 90 minutes and the prospect of more European games as the Rovers progressed to the next round.

* The busy Christmas period was completed with Matt making the bench in every game. As the Rovers were being torn apart by Arsenal, Matt entered after the break and his efforts helped the Blues make a storming comeback. His brave header, which came back off the bar, was finished off in style by Nonda but the defence capitulated late on to leave the visitors well beaten.

* It looked as though playing for the Rovers in front of 60,000 fans was about as good as it could get but a couple of games later it reached another peak as he came on at half time in a league game at Wigan.

‘Neill’s cross to the far post found Pederson who cushioned a header into Derbyshire’s path, and he gratefully accepted the gift by tapping into an empty net.’

Matt Derbyshire’s name was now seen regularly in the National press as well as locally and features on him were seen almost daily. His success was also good news for Great Harwood Town FC as the publicity kept the club firmly in the spotlight.

‘This can be my year’

“It’s a massive thing for me to get my first goal at this level and being a Blackburn fan as well – it’s unbelievable.”

“Hopefully, there’s going to be many more.”

* Well, he didn’t have to wait too long for his next as he was once again given a starting berth against Everton in the FA Cup. He took just over 10 minutes to get on the score sheet and gave a great performance in a 4-1 win. Matt’s last appearance in the competition was 3½ years earlier when he was sent off in the 1 st half against North Ferriby at the Showground.

* The following few games saw him included in the 16 and the goals continued to flow. As a late 2nd half substitute at Manchester City he broke clear, shrugged off a defender and calmly slotted past the keeper with the minimum of fuss to put the icing on a 3-0 victory.

Surely things couldn’t get any better?

Yes they could, and did!

Matt was rewarded with a new extension to his contract, keeping him at Ewood until 2010. * The next round of the FA Cup had Matt starting up front with Benny McCarthy and the young genius gave a man-of-the-match performance as Luton Town were brushed aside 4-0. Matt scored the first with a thunderous right foot shot from the edge of the box. Dived in where the boots were flying to set up McCarthy for the second, and gained a head injury in the process, then out jumped his marker with a trademark leap and header to make it 3-0. The BBC cameras captured everything and the pundits were drooling over his performance. The crowd chanted his name and the newspaper headlines screamed about just one player. He was even interviewed on the TV after the game and Mark Hughes admitted that he’d have a real problem when all of his forwards were fit.

“Of course we believe we can win it. I think every player’s dream to play at Wembley, but we’re just taking it one game at a time.”

Could things get any better? Yes!

Next up was a call from England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce and a debut awaiting at Pride Park-unbelievable!

* With each new week seeming to bring more good news, it was almost inevitable that something would go wrong sooner or later and it did!

Another outing for Matt against Sheffield United at Ewood was cut short when he pulled up with a torn muscle and he missed his chance for International honours. Matt was quite philosophical about the situation and hoped that his turn would come again. Incredibly, Matt was back in action within a couple of weeks and came on as a late substitute at the Emirates, forcing the Arsenal keeper into his only save of the game.

* For the next couple of months Matt hit the headlines in the local, National and even the International Press (The Navhind Times in India ).

‘Matt’s the way to do it!’

‘wonderful Wembley gets a matt finish’

‘magic matt is four-midable’

‘it’s hats off to matt!’

The Lancashire Telegraph told of the debt that Matt owed to Andy McNally who took him under his wing when he spotted the star playing for his school team at the age of 14.

“He got me my first job with the Rovers’ Football in the Community office, and he got me playing for the Darwen Youth Team, and then for Great Harwood after that.

“He’s like a father figure to me, he kept me focussed on my football. “I used to think to myself ‘Am I good enough?’ but every day he kept encouraging me and kept believing in me, and that gave me the confidence to go on and better myself.”

Writing in the Daily Mail, fellow striker, South African International Benni McCarthy had this to say about his strike partner whilst talking about the second penalty in a league game at Bolton .

“We were only winning 1-0 and if I’m on the pitch and we’ve got a penalty, nobody gets in front of me. I was showing a bit of leadership but Matty has elephant balls to pick up that ball and say: “It’s me that’s taking it”-you’ve got to respect that from a 20-year old who’s just broken into the first team.

“That’s a lad who’s going to make it. I admire everything this boy does, he’s going to be a force in the Premiership.”

* Mail reporter Matt Barlow had this to say about Matt in an article asking why the big clubs insisted on buying foreign when there was such talent in the non-league game.

“ Blackburn ’s Derbyshire slipped through the local scouting net as a school boy. He was never connected to a professional club until he emerged in a blaze of goals with Great Harwood Town in the North West Counties Division Two. “Eighteen goals in nine games had the biggest clubs in the north-west flocking to Great Harwood and Derbyshire was snapped up at the age of 17 by his hometown club Blackburn .”

* More glowing articles were written by Rovers all-time leading goalscorer Simon Garner and football legend Mark Hughes whose record both on and off the field is second to none.

“It’s been a fantastic period for him and you can see the enjoyment that he has in his football at the moment.

“ He’s got a smile on his face, he’s scoring goals, he’s a local lad, he’s playing for his local team, he’s scoring in the FA Cup, he’s scoring in the Premier League, and at his favourite end so it’s all falling into place for him.

“Yes I have been surprised by how well he has done.

“With all young players, you want them to make an impact and do well, but you’re never quite sure if they can do it.”

Praise from the likes Mark Hughes must make Matt and his family very proud.

* Back to full fitness, Matt was now a regular in the starting eleven and as he’s done all his life, he took his chance with both hands scoring regularly. His last minute goal against Manchester City confirmed the Rovers place in the FA Cup semi-final before he made his debut for England under-21’s against Spain at Wembley. Coming on as substitute he immediately set up England ’s second goal before scoring the third himself. Next stop Old Trafford against the league leaders in front of the highest-ever Premiership attendance-no problem! Matt scored the only goal of the first half before a second half defensive collapse allowed United to take the three points.

So, what next?

The winning goal in tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final?

The winning goal in the final at Wembley?

Winner in the World Cup final?


* The best moment in Matt’s career so far was turning out for the Rovers, “My own team.”

* The best ground that he’s played on is Ewood Park and his ambition for the rest of his football career is to play as many games as possible.

* Family include Mum Shirley, Dad Ian, brother Chris, sister Kayleigh and girlfriend Melissa.

* When asked if there was anything else interesting about him, he modestly replies “Not really!”

Here are a couple of articles featured in one of the programmes from the 2003-04 season.


Editor’s opinion

One of the good things about being the programme editor is that you’re able to have a right go at people who annoy you. If anyone fancies the job next season, please let me know. Maybe you could do it just for one season to see how it goes.
Anyway, last week I had a rant about the moron form Maine Road (his solicitor has been in touch), and this week Colne F.C. are going to get it.
It was announced by our neighbours that they were going to put in ‘7 days notice’ on our young superstar Matt Derbyshire. Now we all know that Matt has the potential to go to the very top, by that I mean the Premier League not the N.W.C.F.L. 2nd Division!!! It’s only right that all of our fine youngsters want to move up the footballing ladder, but Matt to Colne? It wouldn’t even be a sideways step, Great Harwood Town are a bigger club than Colne and are likely to be for the foreseeable future, or as Chalky White suddenly re-appearing with Lord Lucan. The Colne manager must be as barmy as a box of broken biscuits if he thinks that Matt is ‘good enough’ to play for his club. I don’t know what the GHTFC management or the player himself thinks, but as a supporter, I take it as an insult to the supreme skills of our wonderboy. He’s got pace, grace, balance, leaps like a gazelle, got a first touch like a Brazilian International, brilliant with both feet, powerful header, strong in the tackle, faster than a speeding Linford Christie, finishes like Alan Shearer, dribbling ability akin to George Best and the personality of a saint. Of course apart from that he’s rubbish!
He’s the biggest thing to happen to this club for years and much credit must go to our management duo of John Hughes and Dave Sharples, because under their leadership Matt has come on leaps and bounds. Last season he would come on from the bench and change a game with his lightening speed, but this season, likes Hughesy keeps telling us, he’s getting better every game.
Make the most of this success all you Robins fans, it can’t last forever, but when Matty’s made it to the big time, we’ll still be able to reminisce about this season.
Well that’s all my ranting done for this week, but I’m sure that something else will upset me in the coming week so watch this space!



Doctor Dudley’s problem page

Do you have a problem?
Wife’s not talking to you - wife IS talking to you?
Depressed because your favourite team can’t win a game?

Write to Doctor Dudley c/o the programme editor who’ll pass on your letters and your problems will soon be over.

At last! The problems are starting to roll in. This week a worried Mother wrote in.

Dear Doctor Dudley,
A couple of weeks ago, my little lad said that he was going to play out with his mates at somewhere called Winterton (I thought that he’s said Witton Park). Anyway, he said that he wouldn’t be late but he told a fib as it was gone midnight and his bedtime is 9.00! As you can imagine, I was worried, and not only that, but his Ovaltine was spoiled and his hot water bottle was cold. Could you give me some advice on how to discipline him, would a smack on the legs help?
Mrs. Derbyshire (Matt’s Mum)

Dr. Dudley says:

Well Mrs. Derbyshire, it sounds as though your matt is going to go ‘off the rails’ if you’re not careful. It seems quite clear to me that the little chap has got in with the wrong crowd. Smacking isn’t going to help in this case. What I suggest is that you tell him that if it happens again you’ll stop him playing football altogether and you’ll take his Teddy Bear away.


Doctor Dudley’s problem page

Today sees the return of our popular ‘Agony Uncle’ Dr. Dudley.
If you’ve any problems at all, please right to him and I’m sure that he’ll be able to sort you out. You know the kind of thing, wife not speaking to you, wife IS speaking to you, wife won’t let you go to football etc. etc.
This season’s first problem comes from a worried mother from Blackburn, who, sad to say, also found it necessary to write in last year.

Dear Doctor Dudley,

You may remember me from last year when I wrote to you about my little lad playing football. I took his teddy away like you advised and he’s been coming home on time. Now I’ve another problem. My little lad Matt wasp playing football with his mates a few weeks ago when he scored a goal. Well, since that it seems like the world’s gone mad, my telephone has gone crackers, I’ve had people from other football clubs banging on my door, and young Matt has got too big for his boots, he even answered me back last week! I also had this chap Sven something or other, a foreigner, asking if matt was English! Bloomin’ cheek, of course he is! I don’t want him to go and leave home for a big football club, loads of cash, fast cars and loose women, I want him to stay where he is, have you any advice?

Mrs. Derbyshire

P.S. Please don’t give his name out as he might be embarrassed.

Dr. Dudley says:

Fear not dear lady, everything is in hand. Remember last year when we had an autograph page in the programme?

I got young, ah, Kevin, to sign my copy but unbeknown to him, I’d placed a piece of carbon paper under the page and underneath that I had a contract which said that he had to stay at Harwood until he was 48 years old. It also stipulated that if any loose women came his way, I had to look after them for him. And the cash? As his agent, I take a 95% cut of his wages.



Well, we all knew that Matt Derbyshire would be leaving us sooner or later, and now he’s got his dream move to the club he supports, Blackburn Rovers, He wasn’t here for too long but he’s made a lasting impression with his superb skills and fantastic finishing. The club hasn’t been out of the news since Matt started his goalscoring spree with a hat-trick against Daisy Hill, 9 more followed in the next four games and the scouts were soon outnumbering the fans!
The move is obviously a good one for him, the Rovers, GHTFC, and most of all, our NWCFL opponents who must be overjoyed at not having to face him again. The team though will undoubtedly be much weaker without his mercurial skills and we’ll do well to stay in contention with the league leaders.
Many of our loyal supporters had the pleasure of seeing his great goals at Castleton and Nelson but his performance at Blackpool was surely one of the finest ever given by a Great Harwood Town footballer.
The press have really gone overboard, he’s been compared to Wayne Rooney, Brett Ormerod, the European Maradona and the white Pele so at least there’s no pressure on him!! Personally I’d compare him with Alan Shearer, two good feet, superb in the air, great shot-always on target-just belt the ball upfield and there’s a fair chance that it will end up at Matt’s feet.
Good luck Matt and you can rest assured that everyone here will be ‘rooting’ for you in your new professional career.
P.S. If you do make it to the first team at Ewood, the bonuses due to the Robins will come in quite handy!!

Matt Derbyshire

Great Harwood ‘Legend’

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