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Matthew Tipton: They were playing in Europe, it was something different and they were a club going places

Wed, Apr 17 2019

Having never won a major trophy as a player, Matthew Tipton tasted immediate success as a manager, leading Warrenpoint Town to the 2016/17 NIFL Championship during his maiden season in charge. Currently in the Portadown hotseat, Matthew recently spoke to ExtraTime.ie about his time in senior football to date.

After coming through the ranks at Oldham Athletic, the Welsh-born striker debuted at 17 for the Lancashire outfit, in addition to representing his national side's U-21s while also at Boundary Park. However, it wasn't until a 2002 switch to League Two side Macclesfield Town that the young forward became a prolific goalscorer - something which proved difficult to replicate upon leaving Moss Rose three years later.

“It just didn't work out at Mansfield and after several weeks I realised it was the wrong club for me. Then, at Bury, I was pretty much injured all the time. I had a double hernia operation and was out for three months. I came back and just never really got going again. After that, I had brief periods of form, but think it was just the disappointment of not getting the move that I was expected to.”

To complicate matters, Tipton had almost joined Bury, only to change his mind and sign for Mansfield before eventually agreeing to turn out for the Shakers at the second time of asking: “Scoring a winner there early after the move softened a lot of people's opinion of me. If they had a harsher viewpoint of me, I don't know, but I don't think I performed well enough for them anyway, as I'm sure they expected more from me and didn't get that.”

A loan spell back at Macclesfield preceded Matthew dropping into non-league football - first with Conference North side Hyde United and then appearing at Droylsden. It was at the latter that Tipton won the 2008/09 Manchester Premier Cup, netting against League Two's Darlington in the FA Cup, then contributing to knocking Chesterfield out in the next round following two abandoned games. A plum tie facing Ipswich Town never materialised, when the English FA kicked the club out of the competition due to an ineligible player.

“There was confusion because of the abandoned games - Sean Newton's suspension arrived within the middle of all that. He was suspended for one of the games that got abandoned and then he played in the replay, but there was a league game before that. It was something that hadn't cropped up before and a real strange one, but because the replay was supposed to be played before the league game, he was deemed ineligible, even though he sat out the league game. Missing out on playing Ipswich was disappointing because they were in the Championship at the time. It would have been a great occasion, but got soured by events outside our control.”

The next season witnessed a third stint at Macclesfield, a club obviously close to Matthew's heart: “Even after leaving Mansfield, I was asked to go straight back, but I didn't feel it was the right thing to do so soon. The following year, I was asked again and they were in a bit of trouble results wise and I was delighted to. In the intervening years, I kept in touch with most of the players, so it was an easy decision to keep going back.”

In 2010, the Welshman arrived at his first club across the Irish Sea - League of Ireland side Dundalk, where he scored a hat-trick against table-toppers Shamrock Rovers: “I was at the end of my contract at Macclesfield and didn't know what I was going to do, so went to Bradford City on trial. Peter Taylor then came in and told me that they didn't know if they were going to offer me a deal. My agent then informed me that Ian Foster was managing Dundalk and asked if I'd be interested in going over there. Neale Fenn was supposed to retire, but it turned out he didn't, but I still thought: 'why not? They were playing in Europe, it was something different and they were a club going places. I had three months at Dundalk and it was the best deal I was ever on, to be honest. The wife and family were at home for that period and I was a single man again, so it was good (laughs).”

A move north to Portadown the succeeding year, led to further spells at fellow Northern Ireland clubs Linfield and Ballymena United. Coincidentally, at the last two, Tipton enjoyed County Antrim Shield triumphs, but retirement was announced without a single major winner's medal to his name.

“I went to Linfield after they won everything and joined a club in transition. I missed out on a league title yet again, but we were runners-up. There are plenty of footballers who never even get an opportunity to challenge for a league. In football, you want to be successful and win trophies, but sometimes that doesn't happen.”

The knee trouble persuading Matthew to call it quits in early 2016, also allowed him to follow a long-held desire of entering into management - namely, at Warrenpoint Town: “I always had strong opinions of the game. Even in my early twenties at Oldham, I was thinking about it then. I started coaching early and pursued my badges. I always fancied a crack at it and managers I played for, encouraged that.”

At present, Tipton is in charge at Bluefin Sport Championship side and former club Portadown, but admits to being out of his depth initially at Warrenpoint, despite leading them to the aforementioned division title at the first attempt: “They’d worked so hard to previously get to the Premiership under Barry Gray. He thought he had taken the team as far as he could and that I could offer something different. I had no expectations that I was going to be the manager and didn't know that was the plan until afterwards. Barry pulled me aside and said: 'You realise that you’ve been the manager, anyway.’ Barry held my hand and was experienced. He’s been fantastic because it's always hard in the beginning. I'm still learning now and you always need help.”