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Interview with Charlton's Damian Matthew

After taking League One by storm last season, Charlton Athletic's first team coach Damian Matthew spoke to Total Football about the upcoming season.

After winning the title last season with a staggering 101 points you must be looking forward to the new season?

“I am so pleased to be playing in the Championship and everyone at the club is really looking forward to this new season, particularly after the club has had a tough couple of seasons. We are all relishing the chance and are determined to continue our success.”

What did it feel like to gain promotion?

“It was great to win. Whether you are playing or coaching, there is no better feeling than winning. Sometimes when you have fought hard for a point or just lost but you play well, you try and view that positively but the greatest feeling in football is winning and we experienced a lot of that last season. Since then, there has been a more confident aura around the club which is pleasing and everyone believes in the way the club is progressing and what is needed. Confidence is so important in football, so it’s great that we have that at the moment.”

With pre-season training underway last week, the attention turns to this season and its aims. What are the club hoping to achieve?

“I can’t really say, we always go into any season confident of challenging for promotion. But with the fantastic clubs in the league we know it is no easy feat, including Birmingham, who we have to travel to on the first day of the season and the clubs that got promoted with us [Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield] are arguably such big clubs too. The Championship is the hardest it has ever been but we are looking forward to it and want to challenge ourselves.”

Having previously worked for Chelsea and Wolves and having had a variety of different roles at Charlton since 2006 including under-16s coach, reserve development coach and academy development coach; what are your personal aims for the upcoming season?

“Personally this season I want to establish myself as a first team coach and obviously I want to be as successful as I can be and aim for the best in the Premier League. This season is all about Charlton and striving to be the best I can; to help establish the club in the Championship after spending many seasons in League One."

What about your personal aims for the future. For example, five years time?

“In the longer term obviously, my background is in coaching and developing but hopefully one day I will become a manager. I have already got my UEFA Pro Licence to help me in my development but I want to emphasise now what a great job I have. For me it is so important to be happy and it means a lot to me that I enjoy what I do and working with the team that I do. But being a manager is a realistic aim for me. I am a firm believer of always trying to improve yourself and obviously getting my badges will help that process.”

What does your daily job as first team coach entail?

“I work very closely with the first team squad and the manager. I have involvement in so much of the club, including tactical work and working with the younger professionals, helping them to develop."

Being back in pre-season must be a weird feeling as you are feeling the hopes, optimism and expectation for the new season and itching for the season to begin, but also the niggling feeling that there may not be time to fully prepare. As a coach how do you deal with that?

“You summed up the experience perfectly. But after getting the squad back in pre-season this week, we have had two days of tests and then a nice end to the week with playing some football today and then next week we will have a full week's training before we go on a pre-season tour to Spain. We feel we have set the schedule the best we could and we are confident that the time put into the practice will mean that by August 18, we are pleased and relaxed that the first game is upon us.”

- After playing for Chelsea in the Premier League during the 90s and then having spells at Crystal Palace, Burnley and Northampton, Matthew had to unfortunately retire due to injury at the age of 29. - How did you deal with your career ending so abruptly and what advice would you give to professionals now?

“Unfortunately my career came to an unexpected premature end and I think that is harder to deal with then. When it comes to a natural end, to an extent you can prepare for the imminent future. However for me, after having two operations, I had no opportunities and had to deal with the disappointment as a young man of 29. However, in that situation I focused on the fact that I had played professional football and not many people have achieved that. Ultimately you have to be proud of yourself. You then have to take the characteristics of your footballing days, for example, success, desire and dedication and obviously any opportunities that come your way and apply those elements to be successful again. I took the coaching path and it hasn’t been easy. It has taken me 12 years to get to the point I am at now.”

What advice would you give professionals in that situation now?

“My advice to any player in that situation now would be to think about the future, whether that be financially or educational but think and try and prepare yourself. Always try your best in anything and everything you do.”

By Claire Needham

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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