He's seen it all, heard it all and worked alongside nine different managers. A huge figure behind the scenes at Rotherham United has left after 12 years. This is media chief Matt Young's story

By Paul Davis | 03/09/2019

He's seen it all, heard it all and worked alongside nine different managers. A huge figure behind the scenes at Rotherham United has left after 12 years. This is media chief Matt Young's story
Media man Matt Young

WEMBLEY, May 25 2014: Rotherham United's players are taking their leave after saluting promotion in front of the mass of red and white in the famous arena.

Only Alex Revell, Lee Frecklington, Ben Pringle and co have forgotten the cup. It's still out there on the turf.

Media chief Matt Young spots what's happening at the end of the League One Play-off Final win over Leyton Orient, picks up the silverware and heads for the winners' dressing room.

It's typical behaviour. In all his time at the club, he has always done far more jobs than he was supposed to.

“You get a big, heavy trophy,” he says. “Once you've lifted it a couple of times as a player, I imagine, it becomes a bit of a burden because all you want to do is celebrate.

“I carried it off the pitch. Not because I wanted to but because it was just kind of left to one side.”

Sadly, Young and the Millers are no more, the lure of a posting in the Premier League behind his pre-season departure after 12 years of service embracing nine managers and three stadiums.

You may not know the face but there's a good chance you'll recognise the voice. Young has usually been the man asking the questions in Rotherham's online interviews and the authoritative tones leading the matchday commentaries on the Millers' IFollow channel.

Now aged 32, the boy from Wincobank arrived at the old Millmoor when he was still studying sports journalism at Staffordshire University.

“It was just a work-experience placement for a month to start with,” he recalls. “Mark Hitchens, who is now the commercial manager, was doing media back then.

“I came down to meet him and walked through the doors at the Tivoli next to Millmoor in the days when you could still smoke. There was thick smoke swirling around.

“In the haze, was this man sat a desk. He asked me what I wanted to do and I said 'Anything really'. He said 'We're playing Nottingham Forest tomorrow. You can come and write the match report if you want'.

“I loved Millmoor. I got a special feeling when I was in there. It was a dying breed of a stadium. It was really old-fashioned but it had great character. There were corridors and rooms all over the place.

“I'd regularly get lost after games. I couldn't work out how to get back to the office after I'd filmed the manager following a game. I'd end up outside the ground and coming back in again.”

Young is an avid darts fan and has a favourite Millers double: that 2014 Wembley win and the one in the same competition at the same venue four year later over Shrewsbury Town.

“A player's dream is to play at Wembley and a media man's dream, I suppose, is to report or broadcast from there,” he says. “I've done that three times now.

Sharing a laugh with the Advertiser's Paul Davis

Less memorable was the 2010 League Two Play-off Final heartache against Dagenham & Redbridge.

For family reasons, he grew up watching Rotherham and Sheffield United and the newly-promoted Blades have a top-flight operator to add to their top-flight status following his move to Bramall Lane.

“There are some great people behind the scenes at Rotherham,” he says. “Sam Todd who I worked with, Ben Shepherd before him. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant people, the nicest people ever.

“It's the people I'll miss the most. The Supporters Club gave me a trophy just before I left. They didn't have to do that. Rotherham fans are just nice people. They're genuine and decent.

“Obviously, I'll miss Paul Warne and Richie Barker and the rest of the staff. Warney and Richie were players when I first started. They were two of the most decent players I worked with.

“Paul Hurst was another great guy. So were Andy Warrington and Drewe Broughton. John Breckin, who’s now a club ambassador, is one of the best people I've ever met. I have a lot of history, a lot of years, in this club.”

Rarely would Young be anything other than suited and booted while on club business and, as usual, he cuts an immaculate figure, in his white-collared shirt and trademark thin tie, when we meet up in his final week at AESSEAL New York Stadium.

He's also far too well spoken for a Wincobank lad.

“Right on the border with Rotherham,” he grins. “I was a Blades fans as a kid. My dad used to take me to Sheffield United. But my uncle, God rest his soul, was a big Millers fan so I used to go to Rotherham games with him.

“That's where my love of Rotherham came from. I am genuinely a supporter of both clubs. My dad is the same. He watches Sheffield United but he also comes to Rotherham games with my mum.

“After my work placement, I was working for Rotherham three days a week while I was still at uni.

“I was living in Stoke on Trent and commuting because I couldn't drive at the time. I was coming on the bus from Stoke on Trent. There was a connecting bus in Buxton, then I had to get from Sheffield to Meadowhall.

“I'd walk from Meadowhall to Wincobank, where my mum and dad lived, carrying my laundry because I didn't have a washing machine.

“I used to walk to Millmoor from Wincobank. It took me an hour — Blackburn, Meadowbank Road, past Ferham Park. It kept me fit, that!”

Also very healthy is his sense of humour. Young's professionalism, organisation and innate decency have earned him respect across the Football League but it's his manner when he finally gets to loosen that pencil tie that those in his inner circle warm to most.

His liking for a laugh almost had disastrous consequences the afternoon he rescued the play-off trophy from its Wembley neglect.

“I nearly scratched it coming down the tunnel,” he reveals. “I was sort of messing about.

“Someone I knew in the crowd was asking to hold it and I was pretending to throw it to them. I was close to cracking it against the wall.”

He was the man at the manager's side after matches, warning him of the questions coming up, advising him how to respond. He interviewed players and management, commentated on games, wrote for the programme, filmed for the website, announced new signings and organised and oversaw press conferences.

They were all duties in his job description. He went the extra mile as an unofficial player-liaison officer, some-time scoreboard operator, hotel-booker and provider of extra matchday biscuits in the media suite.

“You get involved in all kinds of stuff,” he says. “It's like that at any football club, especially the ones in the lower leagues. It's a team effort. You have to get your hands dirty with other things.

“The matchday scenario is the best thing ever because you're being paid to watch football. But sometimes, when you have to travel 16 hours to get there and back like Torquay away one year, because of the snow ....” He tails off, a bit like the weather did that weekend.

“When you're getting home at 2am or whatever after a midweek away game and have to get up early for work the next day, the mental tiredness is incredible.

“However, I wouldn't swap it for the world when you consider the entertainment you get on the pitch.”

Chairman Tony Stewart saved the Millers from administration 11 years ago and one of the first things he did was offer a permanent job to Young who by this time had graduated, passed his driving test and was topping up his part-time income by working in a warehouse.

“The club were playing at Don Valley Stadium but the staff were based in Mangham House on Parkgate Industrial Estate,” Young recollects.

“It was barmy. You didn't realise at the time. You just did it. The lengths people went to keep the club moving were incredible.

“You'd drive up to the training ground at Doncaster to get some player interviews — you'd go through Conisbrough or the M18 and often get caught up in traffic whichever way you went.

“You'd come back to Mangham House. The team would play at Don Valley. I'd do shifts in the ticket office because we'd just come out of administration and didn't have many staff.

“We'd drive almost an entire ticket office from Mangham House to Don Valley so fans could pay on the day. It was all worth it because eventually this came up.”

'This' is New York, gleaming red-and-white perfection, almost deserted on a quiet Thursday afternoon. The weather is good so we've chosen pitchside over the air conditioning of the media suite.

There are 12,000 spaces to choose from but there's only one place we're going to sit. Hallowed ground. Normally off limits. Like a pair of kids,        we head straight for the dug-out and its posh red seats.

One of his many roles that weren't really his role was giving potential signings a tour of the ground when it was under construction during the managerial era of Steve Evans. Evans wasn't 'site inducted', Young was among those who were, so the media man had to shadow the boss.

“Kari Arnason, I remember showing him round and he didn't seem particularly interested,” he says. “When Kari left, Steve said 'I don't think we're going to get that one, that's a real shame'.

“But that was just Kari's laid-back personality. In the end, he signed. It was interesting to see how the manager would sell the club and hook the player. Of all the players we took round, a lot more signed than didn't. Steve definitely had some skill there.”

Present manager Paul Warne trusts him implicitly and says: “I sincerely regard Matt as a friend. I will really miss him. All the staff went to the office to say goodbye to him. For all of us, he was our 'go to' man at the club.

“People didn't see that. He was the media man, but if we had any problems about anything we'd say to each other 'Phone Matt, he will know' .”

In more than a decade in the job, Young has had an answer for everything.

Except this.

“If the Millers draw the Blades in a cup competition this season, who would you want to win?” I ask.

“Oooooh ... you can't do that to me,” he laughs, before swearing for the only time in the interview. “That's a no-ball, isn't it? God, what kind of question is that?

“When I was working for Rotherham and we played Sheffield United my allegiance was always to Rotherham. They paid my wages.

“Warney is a Norwich City fan but his heart and soul is in Rotherham United. I feel that's the same for me. I'm going to another club now, but I will come back here for the rest of my life. I've given 10/12 years of my life to it.”

In all that time, no journalist has ever had a bad word to say about him.

“Obviously, you're my favourite,” he lies. “I've been lucky in that some of the media people who have covered Rotherham over the years have been unbelievable. I've had a great crack with them all. They're friends as well as colleagues.”

“It's really tough to go. I wasn't looking to      move. I'm settled. I've got a house in Rotherham. There was only ever going to be something close by that was going to take me away.

“There aren't many teams on my doorstep so this was almost a once-in-a-generation opportunity. I've been through the fixture list. There are at least three or four Rotherham games that I will try to get to. It will be nice to watch purely as a fan.”

Twelve years, three promotions, two relegations, one almost-damaged trophy. There's little he'd change. He loved the play-off successes and even takes something from that 2010 defeat against the Daggers.

“I was absolutely gutted,” he says. “But I couldn't help feeling 'I'm walking around Wembley Stadium'. I can't play sport so how else would I get the opportunity to do that?”

Young has left Rotherham United but Rotherham United will never leave him.

At his home, his garage has been converted to a sports room with a tournament-standard dartboard, a proper pub bar and optics and all kinds of footballing memorabilia.

Two things take pride of place, faded red and steel-bolted to the wall: seats from the old Millmoor main stand.

*********************************

MATT ON THE MANAGERS

Mark Robins

I got on well with all the managers I worked with. I was only 19 or 20 and wet behind the ears when Mark was here. I suspect I was more of a hindrance than a help to him at the time. It was his first managerial job and my first job as a press officer. I didn't really know what I was doing, to be honest with you. You have to learn on the job. If I said it was a fluid motion right from the start, that would be a lie. Mark was great if you ever rang him for anything. He'd always pick his phone up. He perhaps wasn't the most entertaining of interviewees but a manager's true personality doesn't always come over in interviews, does it? He was a very clever bloke. I remember photocopying some kind of dissertation he was doing. I think it was something to do with a coaching qualification he was taking. I sneaked a look. It was very good.

Ronnie Moore

I still talk to Ronnie now. What a great guy. Him and Warney are the best I've worked with. Everyone who knows South Yorkshire will remember how Ronnie used to come across as a great bloke in interviews. Mr Rotherham, a folk hero. But I'd not met him in the flesh before working worth him and I'm thinking 'I hope he's not a b*stard'. He wasn't! He was just like in his interviews. It was like talking to the man in the street. He was brilliant. I could see him in a pub now, have a drink with him and just have a normal chat. The thing about Ronnie was, it didn't matter if you were Lionel Messi or Brian from the Dog and Duck, he'd always ask you what you thought about players. He was genuinely interested in your opinion. If you mentioned you'd seen someone play the other night and he'd been good, Ronnie would take it seriously. I think that's a great quality. You never know who you might find, do you? You might just find a gem that way. What an entertaining bloke. I could listen to his stories all night. He's a fantastic character.

Andy Scott

He didn't last long in the job, unfortunately for him, but he did do a lot of good things in the job in that he had a lot of ideas behind the scenes which have been built on since. Ronnie was hamstrung, to a certain degree, because we didn't have the training ground back then. When we got to Roundwood, Andy changed things up there. He always gave me his time. He would always answer my calls. He'd do his programme notes over the phone, which was good of him. You never had to chase him for anything like that.

Steve Evans

Steve was a man capable of unbelievable acts of generosity — not just to me but other people as well — but, and I'm sure he won't mind me saying this, he was totally unpredictable on a matchday. It's wasn't in a negative way towards me, but my job is PR to a certain degree and he didn't always make that side of things easy! Sometimes he'd listen but at other times the red mist would come down so much that the referee was getting it, the fourth official was getting it, anyone could be getting it. That was sometimes hard to deal with because I was left to pick up the pieces. In fairness to Steve, he always took ownership of his own actions. If he said something out of turn and there were ramifications for it, he wouldn't turn on me. He'd accept the fault. At times, it was challenging working with him. He wore his heart on his sleeve on a matchday. Sometimes that would endear him to people, sometimes it would get him into trouble. If he knew you were going out for a few drinks, he'd say 'Here, have a few on me' and give you some cash. He was very generous in that respect.

Neil Redfearn

He was great. In fact, I'd put him up there with Ronnie and Warney. I'd have loved to have worked with him for longer. I've kept in touch with him because he's done loads for talkSPORT and has come back to New York Stadium quite a bit. He always says 'Hello'. Neil really went out of his way to form a bond. If you were at the training ground, he'd say 'Come and eat with me. How are you? Where have you come from? How long have you been here?' He was a really nice guy. I've got a lot of time for him.

Neil Warnock

Again, that was quite brief. He was quite special really in the sense that what happened on the pitch while he was here was quite incredible. You got a bit of a flavour of his man-management style because he'd work it on you as well. The last game of the 2015/16 season —it was an overnight stay against Hull City — he took me and the other media officer, Sam Todd. It was our job to sort times of departure and rooming lists. At the end of that, Neil just said 'You're coming as well'. He bought everyone a pint before the Hull game — possibly that's why we lost 5-1! His assistant, Kevin Blackwell, was the same as well. They'd both have a drink with you. That night was great. Neil really looked after us. I can see why players really want to play for him.

Alan Stubbs

That was another brief one. He was always good for interviews. He never said 'No' to anything. I never had to check myself. It was an open forum. 'You want to come to the training ground? Come and do whatever you need?'. He was really laid-back about that kind of thing and let you get on with it. He was spot-on with me while he was here.

Kenny Jackett

I really liked Kenny. When a manager goes, you always send a message and say 'Thanks'. It's a two-way street. While it's in managers' contracts that they have to do media, some people are more agreeable to it than others. You always want to be respectful of the fact that they helped you with that. It's usually me texting them first. When Kenny left, I didn't send anything because he'd been here for so short a time. But he texted me and said 'Thanks very much for your help. I really appreciated it'. I thought he was great. It was all too short.

Paul Warne

What you see of him in public with interviews is not an act, I can assure you. He's like that 24:7. He's probably the funniest bloke I've ever met. He can have you rolling with laughter. He's just a great bloke, a really nice guy. He wasn't my line-manager but he looked after me like you wouldn't believe. He would put you in a relaxed frame of mind which just let you do your job better. I worked with him when he was a player and then fitness manager before he became the manager. We go back a long way.

*********************

WARNE ON MATT

HE’S gone to Sheffield United. They're his club. And they're in the Premier League. He goes with my sincerest best wishes.

He'd been here for so long that he was part of the fabric of Rotherham United. He's seen many managers come and go. He's been a massive, massive help to me. After games, he alleviated the pressure on me, told me what questions I'd probably got coming from the media and advised me on how to answer them.

He's been like a younger version of John Breckin to me. That's the best way I can put it. He put things into context. He saw me at my worst times and at my best times and sort of kept me in the middle track.

I sincerely regard him as a friend. I will really miss him. All the staff went to the office to say 'goodbye' to him. For all the staff, he was our 'go to' man at the club. People don't see that. He was the media man, but if we had any problems about anything we'd say to each other: 'Phone Matt. He will know.'

I went in to see him and hugged him.

The thing is with him is that he's sort of grown up with us. He is a true friend. In life, you meet loads of people who you regard as mates, but then you have your real mates, the ones you've known and trusted for a long time. He's one of those.

He's just a really good bloke. I've seen him stand up to managers at this club and stand by his principles. He is a principled man. The club will really miss him. All the people who have worked with him will really miss him.

He embraced the spirit of the Millers in that everyone who works here does more than three jobs. He has been a great representative of this club.

*******************************************

MATT ON THE GREATEST CHANGE

FACEBOOK was still in its infancy when Matt Young joined Rotherham United while Twitter was a name as yet unknown to the world.

“The growth of social media is the biggest change,” he says. “Anyone in the industry will say the same thing.

“Facebook was around when I first started, although it wasn't really used by sporting institutions. Twitter didn't even exist. That side of it has almost become a full-time job of its own, especially on matchdays.

“In the old days, you had to be at the game an hour before kick-off for the team sheets but you didn't have to be there for anything else.

“You got there early to set up your ISDN kit (broadcasting equipment) because the lines never worked. Port Vale, Barnet, wherever you went to, the lines never worked. You'd have to call the engineers out.

“You made sure you were there before 2pm for the team sheet so you could get the team news out.

“Now you have to be there three hours before kick-off because you need to populate the social-media accounts. It turns matchday into a much longer day.

“I'm not saying it's a change for the worse. I embrace it. But it's certainly the biggest change.”


The fact you are here means you are interested in what goes on in your town.

We want to continue holding local authorities to account, attending court and council meetings, as well as providing breaking news, competitions and offers – but it costs money. Online advertising does not cover costs, therefore we feel the need to ask for your help in ensuring we can provide the best possible coverage, online and in our printed products.
For as little as £1, you can support the Rotherham Advertiser – and it only takes a minute.
Click here to support local news.


Spotted something we should know about?

Call our Newsdesk on 01709 768146
Or email newsdesk@rotherhamadvertiser.co.uk
Message us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheRotherhamAdvertiser/