Meet the Coach: Matt Ward

The last-minute equaliser that won Royal Blues promotion to Taiwan’s top division

Name: Matt Ward

Age: 33

Current job: Joint head coach at Royal Blues FC, Taiwan top division (newly promoted)

Qualifications: AFC B Licence (current attendee), BA (hons) in management, sports coaching and development

Playing career: Grantham & District (youth), Sleaford Town (youth),�� Ramsgate Town,���� Sleaford Town,  Loughborough

Why did you move abroad? After being in the military, I’ve always had a taste for living abroad. Having never been to South East Asia, I upped sticks to see where it would lead. I ended up in Taiwan.

Still quite new to the country, and yet to have a social circle, I was at home playing FIFA on the Playstation. Glass of wine, my own character created, playing for Hull City. The wine was starting to talk and I had a moment of self-reflection: why am I playing computer games at 33 and pretending to be a footballer for Hull City? Surely I have more to offer than this?

The next day I contacted a few clubs. Luckily for me I was given a chance by a team with the same vision and ambition as myself. It’s been my life for the past three years (along with my wife of course).

Dream job: RCD Espanyol – a great location and way of life. I’d want to build up, and beat the not so noisy neighbours, Barcelona.

Strangest place coached: Before we moved to our new facility, we used a pitch in a local park. It was already a challenge with a hundred dancers behind the goal, walkers going round the running track, and different types of ‘loud meditation’ happening in each corner.

One night, the goals had been taken down and a concert stage with scaffolding was being put up. We trained in the safest space available and stopped every now and then for the passing fork lift truck.

Wenger or Mourinho?  Mourinho. For strengthening a bank balance – Wenger.

Nil-nil draw or 3-4 defeat? 3-4 defeat

Best player coached: All of my current squad. They all want the same thing.

Worst player coached (or worst type of player): Someone whose needs come before the team.

First thing you do in your first session with a new team: After the meet and greet, aims and expectations and so on, we get on the training pitch. I do a few keep ups so everyone can get over that I didn’t play professionally.

Career ambition: Lead a team to a continental club championship.

One thing you’d change about football: Young players getting too much too soon. It can hamper their hunger and long term career.

Tell us about one of your craziest situations:  In one of the qualifiers for promotion, we were beating a team who apparently were the favourites. It didn’t go down too well – after one of their coaches stepped on the pitch towards our player, their team’s reserve goalkeeper tried to attack us with a traffic cone. They didn’t qualify.

Other details / comments:  When Gary White’s Guam came to Taiwan for their South East Asian qualifiers, I was lucky enough to witness what happens when a group of staff and players pull together and work towards a common goal. Anything can be achieved, and that’s what happened in our final qualifying match last month. We won the first game 1-0 and needed a draw or win to guarantee we qualified. We were 1-0 down in the 92nd minute, and then we equalised (video above).

I’m still a young coach, there’s much to learn, and many courses to complete. But football is a game about people and relationships. At any level, semi-professional like us, or professional like many coaches here, if we get this right then we create success.

Follow Matt @royalbluesfc


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