THE BIG INTERVIEW: Matty Kay
Life appeared to be as per routine for 16-year-old Matty Kay when he turned off his alarm clock one Monday morning and rolled out of bed.
Pulling on his uniform, Kay quickly arranged his stripy blue tie in the mirror before heading out for a regular day at school.
Having the usual banter with his mates as he walked through the gates of Collegiate High School, in 2005, Kay might have become aware that there were a few whispers behind his back.
Teachers, younger pupils and parents – dropping their kids off – all stopped and stared at him as he casually made his way to class registration.
Kay might have known that such attention would be coming his way that morning – especially as he had just made history the day before.
In making his League One bow for Blackpool in their 5-2 defeat of Scunthorpe – live on Sky Sports – he joined a very select group of people to have made their Football League debuts while still studying for their GCSEs.
When Tangerines boss of the time and current Preston North End manager Simon Grayson threw him on as a 90th-minute substitute, Kay became the youngest ever player to represent the club.
At 16 years and 32 days, he beat the previous best by 138 days, which was held by Trevor Sinclair, who of course went on to enjoy an illustrious career with Manchester City, West Ham United and QPR, as well as representing England at the 2002 World Cup.
While Kay’s career has not quite hit the heights of Sinclair’s – indeed his appearance against the Iron was to be his one and only appearance for the Tangerines before being released at the age of 18 – his record remains intact to this day.
It is still something he modestly boasts about from time to time – especially in the dressing room at Bamber Bridge – where he now plays his football.
Kay cannot help but have a little chuckle to himself when he recalls the moment he switched from Blackpool club suit to school uniform in less than 24 hours.
“It was amazing to make my debut for Blackpool when I was still at school,” Kay said.
“From being on Sky Sports, to then going into school the following day....
“Looking back, it was a massive moment in my life – I remember I really enjoyed it.
“It’s something I can tell my son about when he grows up.
“I just remember being really excited. I don’t remember being too nervous
“I just tried to enjoy it and take full advantage of the situation I found myself in.
“I was not on the pitch for long, so I only had a few touches I think.
“I definitely wouldn’t change it for the world.”
On the radar at Bloomfield Road from a very young age as a child, Kay was developed during his formative years by Grayson.
“I had been at Blackpool from the age of five-years-old,” said Kay, who is engaged to Laura and has a two-year-old son called Harry.
“Obviously, I got offered a professional contract there when I was 16.
“So I was training with the first team at 15 or 16-years-old.
“When I was at Blackpool, they had players like Charlie Adam and Wes Hoolahan. It was not that long before they got into the Premier League.
“Simon Grayson was the reserve team manager at the time and then he got the first-team job. At that point I was travelling around with the first team to away games and Simon just decided to give me my debut at 16.
“I must have been pretty good at that age.
Looking back, I probably did not realise it at the time. I was in the national newspapers – Tottenham and Everton were reportedly making offers for me.
“There were people from Manchester United ringing me up.
“I was very good very young, it’s just that when I got older things just petered out for me.
“But I will always be grateful to Simon Grayson – I’ve got a lot to thank him for.”
Why Kay’s Football League career peaked while he was still a schoolboy is a little bit of a mystery.
Having made his debut at such a young age, he could have been forgiven for thinking that a long professional career lay ahead of him.
He admits it took him a while to readjust to life after being released by the Tangerines.
“I could not really tell you why I never made another appearance for the club,” he said.
“It was just one of those things.
“Like I say I was involved with the first team, training every day but then it just came to the point that I was out of contract and on my way to Fleetwood.
“It was hard when I was released.
“When you’re just a kid, you don’t really see yourself doing anything else but being a professional footballer. When I was 15 and 16, I probably just thought I was the next in line to go and make a good career for myself in the game.
“But football is a pretty brutal game really.
“Young players out there don’t really know what a brutal game it can be.
“For many of them, they don’t know anything different to football and then all of a sudden, you’re left to your own devices.
“You are then left to decide whether you can have a football career somewhere else with another club or just go and get a normal standard job.
“I did actually go to university and did something on this.
“They thought I should go and help young lads – to help them with career advice and make them realise, but I suppose when you’re a kid you don’t realise to be fair.
“You just think football is the be-all and end-all and everything will just work out.
“But hundreds of young players go through it every year.”
Despite having a philosophical outlook on his time at Blackpool, would he have done anything different knowing what he does now?
“At 15 or 16 I was just a kid – looking back as a man now I would probably do one or two things differently,” he said.
“I would probably listen to a few more people and take more advice.
“I was so young that I wasn’t really making my own decisions.
“Maybe I could have made a couple of different decisions, but you can’t spend your life regretting things.
“It could have happened for me but it just didn’t, unfortunately.”
After leaving Bloomfield Road, Kay started working at the family-run business Budget Blinds, in Vicarage Lane, Blackpool.
He moved into non-league football, firstly with Fleetwood Town before enjoying a prolonged spell at AFC Fylde.
It was just over three years ago that he was enticed to Bamber Bridge by manager Neil Crowe.
It has proven to be a great move for him and over the previous two seasons, he skippered the club to a hair’s breadth of promotion from the NPL First Division North.
In 2014, the club agonisingly missed out on a place in the NPL Premier Division when they were beaten 3-2 by Ramsbottom United in the play-off final at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.
A year later, the squad repeated the feat but this time were beaten 2-0 away by Darlington 1883.
“I have absolutely loved my time at Brig.
“I joined from Fylde, I just wanted to get back enjoying my football and that was the main attraction coming here.
“I knew I would enjoy myself here.
“It’s been fantastic the last couple of seasons getting to the play-off final.
“To get there a second time last season was great but also difficult because we came up against Darlington, who are a very good side.
“Looking back, I think the first one against Ramsbottom in 2014 was the one where we thought we were going to do it – it was our best chance of going up probably, coming up against Johnno (Anthony Johnson) and Bernard (Morley), who are now the managers of Salford City.
“We were coming up against a lot of the players who make up the current Salford team.
“To be fair, Ramsbottom had a lot of good quality and they beat us and fair play to them.
“It was massively disappointing at the time, but I think it did very well for the club.
“It raised a lot of money and got the profile of Bamber Bridge up, which helped us attract players like Paul McKenna and Brett Ormerod, who did well for us while they were here.”
Kay – who is a contracted player at Brig – appeared to be on his way out of the club late last year when he was placed on the transfer list.
Partly due to the well-documented financial problems the club experienced over the winter and the fact that Kay was struggling for form, the club decided it would be better to get him off the wage bill.
Happily, the club’s financial problems have eased, while Kay used the episode as a kick up the backside.
He won his place back in the side and has been a consistent performer over the second half of the season.
“What happened I suppose was just one of those things,” Kay said.
“The club was having a difficult time in terms of the money side of things.
“I could understand the club’s position.
“To an extent I did not feel I had done too much wrong.
“I spoke to Crowey and the chairman about that.
“Obviously, I did not feel I was playing to my full potential, but even still I did not think it was enough to transfer list me, especially after the previous two years when I felt like I had done well for the club.
“But football is a game of opinions and that is the way things went.
“Obviously, I was bothered about it but it was out of my hands to a certain extent.
“It got left like that and I had a bit of interest from a couple of other clubs, but it was not enough to tempt me away.
“Being on contract, I still came down to the club and watched the lads and supported them.
“I still went to training and worked hard. I still wanted the club to do well.
“What I did was kept my head down.
“I did not try to cause any trouble – I did not want to cause any trouble.
“Obviously things have turned around.
“Hopefully, I am now back in the team and things have settled down now with the club.
“To a certain extent being placed on the transfer list did give me a kick up the backside.
“But I think there might have been other ways of doing that rather than trying to force me out.”
The fact that Brig were having financial struggles also placed an extra burden on Kay’s shoulders.
“As a contracted player, it kind of made it harder because you feel like you are doing the club out of money.
“It places a bit of guilt on your shoulders.”
This season Brig look like they are heading for a mid-table finish – well outside the play-offs.
The signing of some big-named players, in Football League and non-league terms at the start of the season, meant the club started the season as big favourites for promotion.
But things have not gone quite according to plan and Kay believes the club will go back to the drawing board in the summer
“The club signed some good players with good intentions of going up and you can totally understand why it was done,” said Kay.“Personally I feel it was a little but unnecessary, especially when you think we had got so close to going up.
“Looking back the club probably regrets it but they were only trying to do the right thing by the club, which was having ambitions to get in the league above.
“I think next season it will be almost like going back to square one. I am sure the club will be trying to get back fighting at the top end of the table like we have done in the previous couple of years.”
Kay is hopeful of being part of that, but as he knows only too well nothing is guaranteed in football.
“My contract runs out at the end of the season so I will be sitting down with Crowey and his assistant Neil Reynolds to see what the script is for next season.”