Former Claret Damian Matthew on his time at Burnley and Crystal Palace, his old mate Sean Dyche, and his new challenge in India

Damian Matthew has a foot in both camps ahead of Monday night’s game at Turf Moor.
Damian MatthewDamian Matthew
Damian Matthew

The former Chelsea and England Under 21 midfielder saw his career cruelly cut short by injury aged 29, but hugely enjoyed his time at both Crystal Palace and Burnley.

Matthew started his career at Stamford Bridge, and made 21 league appearances before joining Palace in February 1994.

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He helped the Eagles win the First Division title and promotion to the Premiership, as it was, but in the summer of 1996, after 24 league appearances, Matthew was snapped up by Clarets boss Adrian Heath for £65,000.

He was part of the side that just fell short of a play-off spot in his first season, before helping Burnley avoid relegation on the final day of the following season, under Chris Waddle.

Matthew, who is currently Under 18 coach at Indian club Punjab FC, after almost a decade with Charlton Athletic, looked ahead to the game: “It’s gutting you haven’t got the fans, because there have been too many international games, you’re buzzing for the Premier League, and the fans would have been up for it at Turf Moor.

“Burnley have had some improved performances recently, it’s just about getting results.

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“Sean has been unfortunate with not having a settled team with injuries, and hopefully everyone comes back from the internationals injury free.

“But Palace are really strong, Roy has done a great job. You can say you are going to man mark Zaha, but still he gets away from someone, he’s so strong.

“Hopefully Burnley are well-organised as they always are, because he is the dangerman.

“We had Nick Pope at Charlton, Johann, Jack Cork I know well – there are so many good players at Burnley, and Sean’s been unfortunate, he’s not been able to put out his best XI.

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“I’m sure when that happens, results will start to pick up – but the Palace game will be very difficult.”

Matthew has known Sean Dyche a long time, since they were youngsters trying to earn a contract at Chelsea in the late 1980s.

He recalled: “Sean is a great guy, we were both about 14, in digs together for a week in Stanmore, and I asked him if he was going to sign, and he said he was.

“The next time I saw him was when I played for Burnley against Chesterfield in the tunnel! I said ‘I thought you were going to sign?!’ and he said he was, but he obviously went to Forest.

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“When he played at Millwall, he lived not far from me in Kent, so me and Sean go back a long way.”

And Matthew is thrilled at the success he has enjoyed as Clarets boss: “I’m delighted not only for him, but more importantly for Burnley because I loved my time there.

“It was the most I played consistently in my career.

“And you always knew while it was a League 1 club at the time, it wasn’t in terms of stature and potential. And you can now see how far it’s gone.”

While Dyche is loathe to say Burnley are established in the Premier League, the Clarets are enjoying their sixth season in seven at this level, and Palace have been a fixture since 2013: “It’s phenomenal. The time I went to Palace, you had Chris Coleman and Gareth Southgate, and the success they went on to have, not just as players, as managers...they were really good people.

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“Then you had really good senior pros, John Humphrey, Andy Thorn, Eric Young - and it was a great club for youngsters trying to get through.

“I suppose both clubs have had that mix over the years to get back to that level, good youngsters and established pros to nurture everyone.

“I joined Palace when they were top of the league in February heading to the Premiership, and got the equaliser at the City Ground, and they finished runners-up behind us.

“Good times

“They are great clubs – in terms of money spend by the big hitters, not just to compete, but to make their mark, they have both been impressive.

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“And it’s good for British and English managers, in Sean and Roy you have two top managers at different scales in their career, but still highly-respected and a great inspiration to all.”

Hodgson was obviously England boss, and Matthew played with Gareth Southgate, so could Dyche – currently top of the betting – get the top job one day? “You just want people to give you an opportunity, and that’s what it’s all about.

“There are so many coaches and managers going for all the different jobs, you just need someone to give you that opportunity.

“Sean will be the first to tell you. You see the quality of what Burnley have done and continue to do, that has allowed them to get to that level and stay there.

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“It’s brilliant that Sean has been the person to drive that. What sometimes goes unmentioned is he isn’t just doing a good job in getting them to the Premier League, he’s done a great job in terms of keeping them there, which helped build the training ground, developing the players there, he does the whole package.”

Talking about opportunity, Matthew is enjoying his football again in India, after looking for a new challenge after leaving Southend United, where he was assistant to Chris Powell, in March last year.

He put his name out there, and found a taker in Punjab FC: "I'm enjoying it, the experience is unbelievable.

"I was a bit tired at Southend at the end, I was about 49, thinking if I could go back to youth and stay in that for the next 10, 15 years, I'll be delighted, because it's a great industry at the right club.

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"You think there must be some talented footballers, they are fantastic at cricket, but there hadn't been that investment.

"Our owner has been positive, he's trying to move it forward with the academy, so at least that way you might get longevity.

"Curtis Fleming is our first team manager - we're the league below the ISL, but the plan is to try to get to that level.

"At the moment it's franchise, but another two seasons there will be promotion and relegation."

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Matthew added: "You have your pro licence and other qualifications, and when I left Charlton, I was like 'what direction am I going in?' - I got offered a couple of coaching jobs that didn't materialise, and then Jamie Hoyland offered me a scouting role at Everton, lucky enough.

"When I left Southend, I thought, 'right, I'm going to take every opportunity I can and send my CV'.

"One night I was reading an article on LinkedIn, about Roundglass, as they were called at the time, Football Academy, looking for qualified coaches.

"I sent my CV, and two days later, Mick Brown, who used to be at Charlton, he rang me up, and asked if I was deadly serious.

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"I said I'd love the opportunity, and they flew me out in May 19, a day to get there and a day to get back, two days meeting the owner and Mick, and they told me their plans.

"I thought I'd go for it, it was a great chance. My girls are 22 and 18, a bit older now, and me and my wife have been married since 97 so I think she was delighted I went!

"It's been good. We all know with football you can be out of the game, relying on phonecalls, but keep sending your CV, you never know where it's going to land.

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"But it's unbelievable, you go from Delhi, a 35-minute flight to Chandigarh in the north, which is a bit of a stop off point. It's like the foothills of the Himalayas, you get beautiful weather, very green and lush, quite a new city, so modern - you get the diversity in other areas.

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"It's a beautiful place to live, the people are great. They are predominantly Sikh, fantastic people.

"We stay in a really nice hotel, and there's a real buzz, a nice little ex-pat community, and the Indian coaches we work with are a dream.

"They are so open-minded, respectful in terms of wanting to learn, and we want to learn about their culture and players, so it's been a real win-win.

"I just wanted a great experience, and it's definitely given me that, I'm enjoying my football again.

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"The under 18s is probably one of the best ages to coach, you're developing players with so much hunger and desire to reach the next level, and you can hopefully have a positive impact on that."

It's a long way from Turf Moor, and Matthew still has fond memories of his two-year stay: "The new training ground looks impressive - I've not seen it yet, but Gawthorpe Hall was always impressive as you went down that long drive.

"On a dry day the pitches were great, but when you got the floods...

"Again, it was part of what was for me why the club was a big draw, you had the training ground, and it's fantastic to see what they've done there.

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"The first year, on a personal level I was playing, so that was positive, and the players I played with, Jamie, Nigel Gleghorn who I lived near, David Eyres - fantastic player, Gary Parkinson - gutted about how things are with him - Marlon Beresford.

"I felt, for the division, we had some really good players, and that season under Inchy (Adrian Heath), and John Ward, who I knew well, it was top drawer on and off the pitch, and we just fell away.

"Inchy left that summer and Chris came in - Chris. Glenn Roeder, Gordon Cowans, who was a top fella, Chris Woods, we used to call it the Dream Team.

"Players who had had a great career, but maybe they tried to change things too quickly, and it was ironic that we stayed up with a lot of good characters who were there the year before - it would have been easy to throw in the towel, but we had so much respect for the club, and what it had achieved and given us, so we were delighted we stayed up."