Matty Fryatt talks to sky.

Matty Fryatt interview: Restarting at Walsall after injury nightmare

The striker endured three years of injuries before retiring

Last Updated: 04/09/18 10:25am

Matty Fryatt is now coaching at Walsall after having to retire through injury
Matty Fryatt is now coaching at Walsall after having to retire through injury

Matty Fryatt endured an experience no player should have to go through during a three-year injury ordeal but now he is embarking on a coaching career instead. Here, he opens up to Adam Bate about rediscovering his love for the game back where it all began…

For the first time in a long time, Matty Fryatt is enjoying his football. Walsall’s youngsters have just given a good account of themselves against a strong Coventry side and, as he reflects on the game in his car outside the club’s Bescot Stadium, the home team’s U15 coach is both enthused and confused by the performance that he has just seen.

“There was a game on Tuesday and I have spent the last few days thinking about what they did and didn’t do well,” Fryatt tells Sky Sports. “I have been thinking about it constantly. Then they played today and everything was completely different. I had my ideas going into today and now they have changed that view because they really stepped up.”


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Such is the life of a youth coach. The learning curve has been steep since retiring in February but with the help of fellow coach Chris Knott – “he has been great with the detail” – and the support of academy manager Graham Biggs, Fryatt is relishing it. “It’s definitely got me thinking about the game,” he says. “It’s about painting pictures for others.”

A down-to-earth type, Fryatt feels he is at the right club too. “It’s very grounded here at Walsall,” he adds. “The club know what they are. It is built on hard work. I know that sounds like just words but they really do know what they stand for. There aren’t big budgets but they always produce players and always get by. It’s close-knit and everyone tries their best.”

The journey has come full circle. This is the club where he made his professional debut, aged just 17, before embarking on a career that took him to the Premier League and even an FA Cup final with Hull. That was 2014. Within a year, and still barely 29, Fryatt was turning out for Nottingham Forest in what would be his last ever professional appearance.

Fryatt celebrates scoring for Hull in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley
Fryatt celebrates scoring for Hull in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley

What followed were three fraught years as he attempted to find a way back from the Achilles injury that became the bane of his existence. It was a challenge for the mind as well as the body. “Family and friends were great but you’re dealing with it yourself really,” he explains. “Particularly when the question of when you’ll get back turns to if you’ll get back.”

It is the cruellest of injuries. Even a snapped anterior cruciate ligament offers greater clarity. “It is the slowest healing part of the body because of the blood supply,” says Fryatt. “It is a difficult area to diagnose. It is not as straightforward as a knee operation or a broken leg. I am not going to say it is worse. Any injury is bad. But it is not straightforward.

“I have got all the scars and if you keep on going into that area, the more of a mess it becomes. I was going into operations with no certainty it would work. Nobody can ever tell you 100 per cent, I realise that, but people were telling me that this works on 70 per cent of people and we think it couldhelp you. It was never 95 per cent.”

Fryatt in action for Walsall against West Ham as a teenager back in 2004
Fryatt in action for Walsall against West Ham as a teenager back in 2004

After two years without playing a game, there was some brief hope in the spring of 2017. “I had two months of full-on training at Forest and started to improve,” he says. “But then I started having some issues with the other Achilles too, based on the fact that I was overloading and taking the pressure off the bad one.”

After his release, Fryatt attempted to play on, training with Burton Albion and then Walsall. “I was taking pills just to get through it,” he adds. “I was nearly there but not quite there and I could not do it for an extended period of time. So if I did one session I would be in agony from it. I could get through a session but then you would have to recover and go again.

“Every time I stepped out onto the pitch it was a challenge just to get through it. I would do half an hour and be in real pain, but feeling like I had to keep going. It was just too much to be doing it constantly. As much as someone watching me might say, ‘you don’t look too bad’, I would be dealing with the pain and trying to do it the next day and the next day.”


Nottm Forest 3-1 Newcastle
Highlights from the second round Carabao Cup match between Nottingham Forest and Newcastle.
Watch highlights of Nottingham Forest’s 3-1 win over Newcastle

And the clock was ticking. Fryatt had gone from being in his prime to his early thirties. “The speed had gone,” he admits. “There are still movements where I think I could lose my marker but it would be for like 10 seconds. Obviously, you have to do it for 90 minutes and I was competing against guys who were doing full sessions. Ultimately, I couldn’t do it.”

Fryatt did not go straight into coaching upon accepting that his playing career was over. He dabbled with scouting first, in a role with another of his former clubs, Leicester City, but then decided coaching was more for him. Although he enjoyed the scouting role he felt there was unfinished business on the training ground. “It’s a lonely role and at 32 I didn’t feel that it was the way forward,” he explains. “I’d prefer to be working with kids and giving something back.”

That is the role he has now and Walsall’s academy hopefuls are getting the chance to learn from the club’s former player of the year. Fryatt even sees something of himself in the fledgling strikers that he is coaching too. “The strikers play how I used to play,” he says. “I am just focusing on little things like the timing of the runs, explaining those movements.

Fryatt was announced as a Walsall youth coach in the summer [Credit: Walsall FC]
Fryatt was announced as a Walsall youth coach in the summer [Credit: Walsall FC]

“I think it is a good age-group for me. It’s right that I start lower down where I can gain experience. The kids are so eager and if they make a mistake they’ll just get on with it. I love that.”

Fryatt is still learning but he will soon have his A-Licence and the long-term dream is to coach at senior level. “I want to stay in football,” he says. “The plan is to kick on now. Who knows what could happen from there?” At 32, he is ahead of the game too. Even the Achilles is not too much of a problem. “I can jog in comfort now,” he adds.

After his long injury battle that is no small thing. It has been a testing time but the relief is palpable. There is something new to focus on – a thought that he returns to again and again. What can he do to make these players better? “I’m already thinking about the next game,” he says with a smile. For the first time in a long time, Matty Fryatt is enjoying his football.

Many thanks Sky for the use of the story.

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Premier League
Club Manager Appointed Predecessor
Arsenal Unai Emery 23 May 2018 Arsene Wenger
Bournemouth Eddie Howe 12 Oct 2012 Paul Groves
Brighton & Hove Albion Chris Hughton 31 Dec 2014 Sami Hyypia
Burnley Sean Dyche 30 Oct 2012 Eddie Howe
Cardiff City Neil Warnock 5 Oct 2016 Paul Trollope
Chelsea Maurizio Sarri 14 July 2018 Antonio Conte
Crystal Palace Roy Hodgson 12 Sep 2017 Frank de Boer
Everton Marco Silva 31 May 2018 Sam Allardyce
Fulham Slavisa Jokanovic 27 Dec 2015 Kit Symons
Huddersfield Town David Wagner 5 Nov 2015 Chris Powell
Leicester City Claude Puel 25 Oct 2017 Craig Shakespeare
Liverpool Jurgen Klopp 8 Oct 2015 Brendan Rodgers
Manchester City Pep Guardiola 1 Jul 2016 Manuel Pellegrini
Manchester United Jose Mourinho 27 May 2016 Louis van Gaal
Newcastle United Rafael Benitez 11 Mar 2016 Steve McClaren
Southampton Mark Hughes 14 Mar 2018 Mauricio Pellegrino
Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino 27 May 2014 Tim Sherwood
Watford Javi Gracia 21 Jan 2018 Marco Silva
West Ham United Manuel Pellegrini 22 May 2018 David Moyes
Wolves Nuno Espirito Santo 31 May 2017 Paul Lambert
Scottish Premiership
Club Manager Appointed Predecessor
Aberdeen Derek McInnes 6 Apr 2013 Craig Brown
Celtic Brendan Rodgers 20 May 2016 Ronny Deila
Dundee Neil McCann 2 Jun 2017 Paul Hartley
Hamilton Martin Canning 23 Jan 2015 Alex Neil
Heart of Midlothian Craig Levein 28 Aug 2017 Ian Cathro
Hibernian Neil Lennon 8 Jun 2016 Alan Stubbs
Kilmarnock Steve Clarke 14 Oct 2017 Lee McCulloch
Livingston TBC TBC Kenny Miller
Motherwell Stephen Robinson 15 Mar 2017 Mark McGhee
Rangers Steven Gerrard 04 May 2018 Graeme Murty
St Johnstone Tommy Wright 10 Jun 2013 Steve Lomas
St Mirren TBC TBC Jack Ross
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Aston Villa Steve Bruce 12 Oct 2016 Roberto di Matteo
Birmingham City Garry Monk 4 Mar 2018 Steve Cotterill
Blackburn Rovers Tony Mowbray 22 Feb 2017 Owen Coyle
Bolton Wanderers Phil Parkinson 10 Jun 2016 Neil Lennon
Brentford Dean Smith 30 Nov 2015 Marinus Dijkhuizen
Bristol City Lee Johnson 6 Feb 2016 Steve Cotterill
Derby County Frank Lampard 31 May 2018 Gary Rowett
Hull City Nigel Adkins 7 Dec 2017 Leonid Slutsky
Ipswich Town Paul Hurst 30 May 2018 Mick McCarthy
Leeds United Marcelo Bielsa 15 Jun 2018 Paul Heckingbottom
Middlesbrough Tony Pulis 26 Dec 2017 Garry Monk
Millwall Neil Harris 29 Apr 2015 Ian Holloway
Norwich City Daniel Farke 25 May 2017 Alex Neil
Nottingham Forest Aitor Karanka 8 Jan 2018 Mark Warburton
Preston North End Alex Neil 4 Jul 2017 Simon Grayson
Queens Park Rangers Steve McClaren 18 May 2018 Ian Holloway
Reading Paul Clement 23 Mar 2018 Jaap Stam
Rotherham United Paul Warne 5 Apr 2017 Kenny Jackett
Sheffield Wednesday Jos Luhukay 5 Jan 2018 Carlos Carvalhal
Sheffield United Chris Wilder 12 May 2016 Nigel Adkins
Stoke City Gary Rowett 22 May 2018 Paul Lambert
Swansea City Graham Potter 11 Jun 2018 Carlos Carvalhal
West Bromwich Albion Darren Moore 18 May 2018 Alan Pardew
Wigan Athletic Paul Cook 31 May 2017 Warren Joyce
League One
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Accrington Stanley John Coleman 18 Sep 2014 James Beattie
AFC Wimbledon Neal Ardley 10 Oct 2012 Terry Brown
Barnsley Daniel Stendel 6 Jun 2018 Paul Heckingbottom
Blackpool TBC TBC Gary Bowyer
Bradford City Michael Collins 18 Jun 2018 Simon Grayson
Bristol Rovers Darrell Clarke 28 Mar 2014 John Ward
Burton Albion Nigel Clough 7 Dec 2015 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Charlton Athletic TBC TBC Karl Robinson
Coventry City Mark Robins 6 Mar 2017 Russell Slade
Doncaster Rovers Grant McCann 27 Jun 2018 Darren Ferguson
Fleetwood Town Joey Barton 2 Jun 2018 John Sheridan
Gillingham Steve Lovell 16 Nov 2017 Ady Pennock
Luton Town Nathan Jones 6 Jan 2016 John Still
Oxford United Karl Robinson 22 Mar 2018 Pep Clotet
Peterborough United Steve Evans 28 Feb 2018 Grant McCann
Plymouth Argyle Derek Adams 11 Jun 2015 John Sheridan
Portsmouth Kenny Jackett 2 Jun 2017 Paul Cook
Rochdale Keith Hill 22 Jan 2013 John Coleman
Scunthorpe United Stuart McCall 27 Aug 2018 Nick Daws
Shrewsbury Town John Askey 1 June 2018 Paul Hurst
Southend United Chris Powell 23 Jan 2018 Phil Brown
Sunderland Jack Ross 25 May 2018 Chris Coleman
Walsall Dean Keates 16 Mar 2018 Jon Whitney
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Bury Ryan Lowe 10 May 2018 Chris Lucketti
Cambridge United Joe Dunne 2 May 2018 Shaun Derry
Carlisle United John Sheridan 5 Jun 2018 Keith Curle
Cheltenham TBC TBC Gary Johnson
Colchester United John McGreal 4 May 2016 Kevin Keen
Crawley Town TBC TBC Harry Kewell
Crewe Alexandra David Artell 8 Jan 2017 Steve Davis
Exeter City Matt Taylor 1 Jun 2018 Paul Tisdale
Forest Green Rovers Mark Cooper 9 May 2016 Adrian Pennock
Grimsby Town Michael Jolley 2 Mar 2018 Russell Slade
Lincoln City Danny Cowley 13 May 2016 Chris Moyses
Macclesfield Town Mark Yates 19 Jun 2018 John Askey
Mansfield Town David Flitcroft 1 Mar 2018 Steve Evans
MK Dons Paul Tisdale 6 June 2018 Dan Micciche
Morecambe Jim Bentley 13 May 2011 Sammy McIlroy
Newport County Mike Flynn 9 May 2017 Graham Westley
Northampton Town Dean Austin 12 May 2018 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Notts County Harry Kewell 31 Aug 2018 Kevin Nolan
Oldham Athletic Frankie Bunn 13 Jun 2018 Richie Wellens
Port Vale Neil Aspin 4 Oct 2017 Michael Brown
Stevenage Dino Maamria 20 Mar 2018 Darren Sarll
Swindon Town Phil Brown 12 Mar 2018 David Flitcroft
Tranmere Rovers Micky Mellon 6 Oct 2016 Gary Brabin
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Barnet John Still 18 May 2018 Martin Allen
Barrow Ian Evatt 15 Jun 2018 Ady Pennock
Boreham Wood Luke Garrard 14 Oct 2015 Ian Allinson
Braintree Town Brad Quinton 19 May 2017 Hakan Hayrettin
Bromley Neil Smith 4 Apr 2016 Mark Goldberg
Chesterfield Martin Allen 15 May 2018 Jack Lester
Dagenham & Redbridge Peter Taylor & Terry Harris 5 Jun 2018 John Still
Dover Athletic Chris Kinnear 19 Jan 2013 Nicky Forster
Eastleigh Andy Hessenthaler 18 Dec 2017 Richard Hill
Ebbsfleet United Daryl McMahon 28 Apr 2015 Jamie Day
AFC Fylde Dave Challinor 2 Nov 2011 Kelham O’Hanlon
Gateshead Steve Watson 10 Dec 2017 Neil Aspin
FC Halifax Town Jamie Fullarton 20 Feb 2018 Billy Heath
Harrogate Town Simon Weaver 21 May 2009 Neil Aspin
Hartlepool United Matthew Bates 4 May 2018 Craig Harrison
Havant & Waterlooville Lee Bradbury 11 Oct 2012 Stuart Ritchie
Leyton Orient Justin Edinburgh 29 Nov 2017 Steve Davis
Maidenhead United Alan Devonshire 5 May 2015 Johnson Hippolyte
Maidstone United TBC TBC Jay Saunders
Salford City Graham Alexander 14 May 2018 Anthony Johnson & Bernard Morley
Solihull Moors Tim Flowers 20 Jun 2018 Mark Yates
Sutton United Paul Doswell 15 May 2008 Jimmy Dack
Wrexham Sam Ricketts 2 May 2018 Dean Keates