Matthew Towns has spoken exclusively to MalteseFootball.com about how he is finding life as head coach of SK Victoria Wanderers. The 36-year-old is also a registered player for the club, making him a Goalkeeper/Head Coach.
Famous names such as Glenn Hoddle, Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit all ventured into Player/Manager roles towards the end of their careers.
Towns also brings a wealth of experience to his side having played in goal for Maltese giants: Floriana, Valletta and Hibernians.
Speaking about how he has settled into life with Wanderers, the Englishman said: “I’m enjoying the challenge if I’m honest. Obviously, the combination of both being Head Coach and a player comes with its challenges but it’s an experience I feel I am handling well.
“I have a good coaching team around me in Alex Pieche and Franklyn Cassar who I have communicated with since day one. As with any Head Coach, the relationship and trust within my staff is paramount.
“I’m enjoying the day to day tasks that come with such a role and the fact that I have always lived and breathed football helps, as well as having a good network around the globe.
“I’ve always been a Goalkeeper who studies the game and analyses performances after each game from a number of perspectives so I think this has been helpful to me combining the roles.”
Towns who is a Maltese Cup Winner continued by explaining how he has always been involved with coaching and that he is grateful for being given the opportunity to manage: “Management and coaching have always been the natural progression I have seen my career going in.
“I have always been involved in coaching throughout my playing career. I have previously held player/coaching roles at a number of clubs, I was combining playing with goalkeeping coaching at San Gwann, St Andrews, South Adelaide Panthers and Pembroke FC.
“I was also a physical trainer at Hibernians FC as well as previously coaching various age groups from my days at Macclesfield Town. Before that, at Derby University I was player/coach of the men’s team. I have always seen the two roles as going hand in hand.
“I think doing my coaching badges in both goalkeeping and outfield departments whilst playing has helped my performances and understanding of the game over the years as a player.
“This being said I still feel and know I have a lot to offer on the field as well as developing as a Head Coach. I can’t be more grateful than I am for the belief and trust SK Victoria Wanderers FC have put in me to give me this opportunity.”
The 36-year-old went on to speak about his previous roles with clubs such as San Gwann and Pembroke FC saying: “My previous roles have obviously helped in the man-management side of the job. Having the opportunity last season to be Minors Head Coach at Pembroke FC was something I will always look back on as a valuable lesson as Head Coach.
“It helped me understand the decision-making process in management. I have been lucky enough to play under and be a player/coach with some fantastic Head Coaches, all of whom I have learned valuable lessons from.
“I am fortunate enough to have a good relationship and friendship with a number of them who are always there if I need to make a phone call. So overall each and every past coaching opportunity has been vital in my current role.”
The shot-stopper continued by going into detail on how he can make his role as a Player/Head Coach work: “I’m sure people have mixed views on the Player/Head Coach role in football, and yes maybe it takes a certain character to do it.
“I watched David James do the same role for a number of years and like him, I had to have faith in the coaching staff around me. This means that in certain training sessions and match days after my team talk I can fully focus on my role as a Goalkeeper.
“I have a daily and weekly routine which I follow where I train extra on my own three to four mornings a week, followed by my session planning which I consult my assistants with, before going to training with the squad.
“I tend to step into coaching mode during tactical sessions and let my assistants lead any physically driven sessions, this is where the trust comes into play. On a match day, I meet my assistants early and we discuss the game and then I have to mentally start to focus on playing and trust them with any in-game decisions. It’s a challenge I am relishing.”
S.K. Victoria Wanderers F.C. are currently seventh in the Gozo First Divison after five league games, with one win to their name.
Speaking about the club’s target for the season, Towns said: “As a club, our aim at the start of the season was to stay in the division and with a lot of hard work I believe this is an achievable goal.
“Personally I have to look at my aims as two separate things. As a player my aim is the same as every season – make sure I play to the best of my ability and to give everything to the team. As a Head Coach, my aim is to produce a team who work collectively to achieve our goals.
“We have a good mix of youth and experience at the club and I think it is important to utilise both. I want our team to play in the right way and to build something to be proud of.”
Towns has had a rollercoaster of a career on and off the field and in 2016, the former Macclesfield Town goalkeeper was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. However, with the drive and mental attitude he has always shown throughout his career, the goalkeeper was playing 10 weeks after surgery.
Speaking about this part of his life, the Victoria Wanderers head coach said: “I feel lucky every game I play and very driven to succeed. When I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer I know some people thought I may never play again let alone recover from surgery and be playing in Australia with South Adelaide 10 weeks later.
“Surviving it has only made me more focused on doing my job and made me very ambitious personally now and for the future. It also helped me from a coaching point of view to see players as people. I think sometimes things can be happening in players lives that we don’t know about.
“I had a lot of things to battle after the surgery and it made me more appreciative and understanding of things that may go on in teammates and players lives and emphasised the importance of being able to switch off and enjoy those precious times away from work and the game. I feel very lucky to still be able to do what I do.”
Movember, the month formerly known as November, is when brave and selfless men around the world grow a moustache, and women step up to support them, all to raise awareness and funds for men’s health – specifically prostate and testicular cancer.
Movember was established in 2003 by a few friends over a beer in a pub just outside Melbourne, Australia. The goal was simple – to create a campaign promoting the growth of the moustache among like-minded people, and to have fun along the way. It is about real men, talking about real issues and changing the face of men’s health, one moustache at a time. Movember now spans the globe, with campaigns in over 20 countries.
Prostate Cancer UK is the main beneficiary of the Movember campaign. For the last ten years, the amazing efforts of the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas from across the UK have significantly contributed to our research initiatives and have supported men by investing in our services.
Since its foundation, Movember has raised over £400 million for men’s health issues. To find out how to get involved visit Prostate Cancer UK.