Longest Serving Player Joins Committee

At the recent AGM, senior player, Matthew Johnston followed in his dad’s footsteps by joining the club committee. Dad Nigel has been chairman of Town for 10 years but his love affair with the club began in 2003 when a young Matthew started out his journey with the club.

We caught up with Matthew – Lurgan Town’s current longest serving player – to get his thoughts on all things Lurgan Town and why, in this modern world of football, he has stayed so long with the one club. A rarity in itself.

LT: Tell us about the early days. MJ: joined Lurgan Town in 2002 when I was about 8 years old. We played 7 aside matches with the U8/U9’s on the gravel [before the 3G pitches at the Arena] I still have a few scars to prove it! My first 11 aside coach was the legendary Gareth Maxwell. We had a great side, with the likes of Josh Barton, Mark Neill & Nathan Crozier. We managed to make a couple of cup finals and even won our section of the very competitive Lisburn league – The first time I witnessed the Maxi knee slide. Unfortunately I’m now the last one standing from that team, still at the club.

One of my favourite memories from the early days was at U12’s when we travelled to the Ayr Easter & Spring football tournament. John Parkes & Norman Robinson were the coaches at the time. Only for a bad bout of food poisoning I’m still convinced we would have won it.

The following year we were coached by the former Northern Ireland International Raymond McCoy alongside Nige(l) Johnston – my Dad, who continued to coach me through the rest of my time in the youth set up and also coached our Reserve team through a league winning season.

LT: What about your transition from Junior Town to Senior Town. MJ: Ally Neil (former reserves manager) was the first manager to bring me into the senior set up. The reserves were struggling at the time and so needed some few fresh legs. I had just turned 16 at the time so the transition was tough enough, but I enjoyed the physical side of the game so I was grateful for the opportunity. The following year Timmy Lennon encouraged a few of us to come down to senior training and I have been playing senior football ever since. We also had a good link between the U18’s with Mark Rimnington and the Reserves with Nigel Johnston which helped with organising playing time etc.

LT: Did you ever think about moving to another club? MJ: To be honest, it’s never really entered my mind to move clubs, I’ve always felt a strong connection to Lurgan Town and loyalty is something that I pride myself on and I think other clubs understand that. I owe a lot to the club. Plus very few clubs in the surrounding area have the facilities that are on offer here.

LT: So what do you enjoy so much about Lurgan Town? MJ: Everything – I’ve made so many memories during my time at the club at both junior and senior level. As I already mentioned there are fantastic facilities available and a really good bunch of people on the pitch, off the pitch and behind the scenes that deserve a lot of credit for how the club is run. Currently, the senior section has a really well organised set up and it’s great to see the amount of talented young players getting the opportunity to come through in the same way that myself and others had done previously.

LT: Now into the club committee. How did that come about? MJ: I had been thinking about it for the past couple of seasons. The senior section had lacked any real representation for the past couple of years and I think it’s important to ensure that the senior section is given equal consideration. We, as players are responsible for that. I also think it’s important to make sure that the senior section is thought of as an appealing prospect for any youth player coming through. I definitely plan on continuing to play this year and I have been working hard to (hopefully) put my previous injuries behind me for good so I’m excited to see how the season plays out.

LT: On the field then, what’s the aim for the season? MJ: Personally, my aim for the season is just to play as many minutes as possible. Its no secret that I’ve struggled to play consistently due to injuries and work commitments over the past few years so getting onto the pitch as much as what I’m focused on. Ideally I’ll be hoping to break back into the first team at some stage but the Reserves are under new management now with Keith and Eric and pre season has been promising so far so I’ll be happy playing wherever I’m needed.

Since Matthew joined the Senior set up in 2010/11 he has played 149 games, scoring 11 goals. He has won 4 league titles – Reserve Division 1, 2, 3 and 4. He has also won Players Player of the Year for the Reserves in 2011/12 and Leading Goalscorer for the Reserves in 2013/14. He has also won 6 individual awards from U10s to U18s.