To launch the first piece in our ‘In Conversation’ series we spoke to Matthew Burton. Matthew is Huddersfield Town Schools Ambassador as well as Headteacher at Thorn Hill Community School and slightly famous for ‘that’ wonderful role he played in a certain Channel 4 programme called ‘Educating Yorkshire‘.
Talk of the Town’s Freddie Cocker caught up with Matthew to discuss all things Town, what he’s made of the season so far and how he’s getting on in his new role working for the club.
First of all, what have you made of the season so far? What have you been pleased with and where can we improve, as a team?
Last season, we were in a perpetual state where we were in eleventh for three or four months. Even though it’s early in the season, being near the bottom is a worry.
Having said that, if you looked at the team on Saturday, it’s the last twenty yards where the problem lies. The moves they put together, the way they knocked it around, how they pressed at times and defended on the whole against good players was a positive and should be applauded.
There has been pockets of good stuff this season, I remember the first half against Chelsea was really strong. Had we not conceded those two goals, we wouldn’t have been too shocked had we scored in that opening twenty-five minutes and went in at half-time one nil up.
There’s massive disparities in the league financially and whilst you can mitigate that to a certain extent in the Championship, through hard work and tactical nous, when it comes down to absolutely world class players, they make their mark.
At the moment, it’s not quite clicking but every season, there is a run of games where you don’t get the luck. We will get a run of games where we’ll get that luck instead.
Everybody knows better than to bet against David Wagner and Town.
Why don’t we talk a little bit about your role as school ambassador at the club. What does it involve on a day to day basis (if at all) and how do you combine it with your new role as headteacher?
Basically, before this role I’d been working in schools as a Town fan with a reasonably high profile, having appeared on national TV and the like. The day that Sean asked me to do it, I did the photo shoot at PPG Canalside. They announced it on the website as if I had signed for Town! It became apparent to me from the age of 10 that my aspiration to be a footballer wouldn’t come true so this was absolutely the closest thing to it.
The role isn’t carried out on a day-to-day basis, I do as much as time allows and as much as they need me to be. I say ‘work’, it’s not work, it’s pleasure.
I’m always available and on hand to talk about things if needs be. I know the pathway to get things ready and what the impact of something needs to be to get schools interested.
Sometimes, it will be a case of taking it back to the drawing board and making sure this is worthwhile for schools to get involved in. Broadly speaking, the Town Foundation is an absolutely amazing thing – it’s a fantastic charity.
We have a Breakfast Club at our school, which is because of the levels of children eligible for the ‘Pupil Premium’. It’s happened since the last week of term last year where we couldn’t really believe that we were getting all that sort of stuff for free.
We were getting thirty kids for the first week or two weeks but now we’re getting a couple hundred kids [coming to the breakfast club].
These are kids from all sorts of backgrounds and economic groups coming together and that’s what this initiative is all about.
Whatever happens on the pitch, human beings in Kirklees are better off because of Huddersfield Town.
Stereotypically speaking, are a lot of your children Town fans? Have you seen the numbers of teenage fans grow as a direct result of our meteoric rise or just the work you’ve done in schools?
Firstly, there are a significant number of Town fans at our school. There is a hardcore group of Town fans who at any opportunity, on a non-school uniform day in the middle of December will pull out a Town shirt.
Over time, that has increased and it is great to see. I don’t think it is anything to do with me. However, it is a nice thing to work at the school and have the opportunity to have a chat with the kids about that.
Generally speaking, kids are aware [through the breakfast club and other initiatives] not just of the footballing side but the impact Town has on the community. It’s testament to all the work that has been done.
Do you think the last two years have had a positive impact on how Town fans you’ve seen in your school have behaved or interacted?
In a weird sense, it’s been more challenging in the Premier League because it is such peaks and troughs but of course, you see the impact.
In previous years, you’d see replica shirts without the badges. Now, I haven’t seen a single replica shirt that doesn’t have the Premier League badge on the sleeve. It is that sort of stuff.
I think there is a satisfaction that anyone who was at Wembley on that day can take in never looking at this adventure and say anything bad about it.
Keep your eyes peeled for more ‘In Conversation’ pieces coming out in the near future.
If you would like to have your ‘In Conversation’ piece on Talk of the Town, contact us via Twitter or get in touch with our editors, Elliot Wheat-Bowen or Freddie Cocker.