Matt Woods (1931-2014) RIP

Matt Woods, the last County captain to be presented with a Championship Trophy, passed away last month

Matt was brought to County in the summer of 1966 at the age of 35 by manager Eddie Quigley, who knew him from his Blackburn days. Quigley saw him as the man to captain the side and form a solid central defensive partnership alongside Eddie Stuart.

EARLY CAREER

Born in Skelmersdale on 1 November 1931, Matt had put in long spells at Everton and Blackburn Rovers. At Goodison Park he played only a handful of games but on being sold to Blackburn for £6,000 he became a first team regular. Matt helped Rovers to promotion to the top flight in his second season. Blackburn went on to establish themselves as a first division side over the following seasons, with a highest position of 8th in 1961. Matt was a virtual permanent choice only really missing out through injuries and played over 300 games during his time with Blackburn.

On leaving Ewood Park Matt went to try his luck down in Australia and played for three Aussie sides over the next couple of years. The ill health of a relative brought him back to the UK and he joined County's fourth division rivals Luton Town.

AT COUNTY

Soon after joining County Matt was quoted in the programme as liking the family atmosphere of the club and the idea of players, official and supporters having a drink together after matches; helping to build up a team spirit.

The partnership that Quigley planned - before leaving the club himself a few months into the season - certainly did its job. County conceded just 42 goals in taking the Fourth Division title.

His experience and knowledge went beyond his own position as Ken Mulhearn was keen to give Woods and Stuart credit for their coaching skills and drumming into him that he was big enough to dominate the area - after Mulhearn had lost his place in the side for a time.
                                                                            
The step up to Division Three seemed to be no problem to Matt and he got good reviews for his performances as County slowly built their season climbing to the fringe of the promotion places.

His popularity was emphasised when a few minutes before the end of a victory over Brighton Woods left the field clutching his chest in agony. Trevor Porteous made special mention of the fact that as Matt was assisted to the dressing rooms the crowd rose to a man and applauded.

He missed a few games through injury but still managed to chalk up a total of 94 appearances as County more then held their own in the third tier. What proved to be his last game for County came on 4 May 1968 in a 5-3 defeat at Bury. At the end of May Matt was given a free transfer by the Hatters as was his central defensive partner Eddie Stuart.

AFTER COUNTY

When he was released County said he would stay on the payroll until he had recovered from the operation for a cyst on a cartilage that had been diagnosed at Christmas.

It's unclear if or when the operation took place but in August Matt signed for his last club as a player, Dublin based side Drumcondra. He had a four month spell in the League of Ireland playing his last game on 15 December 1968 against Waterford.

MANAGER AND COACH

Having stopped playing Matt returned to England and had a spell as manager of Altrincham. He returned to Edgeley Park in October 1969 as Chief Coach under Walter Galbraith. At the time he also kept an eye on the Youth policy at the club but just as he felt this was showing the kind of results hoped for first team matters took over.

County had struggled all season and were already more for less certain of relegation back to Division Four. Manager Walter Galbraith was sacked and Woods was put in control a making him unable to deal with the youth team for the rest of the season.

Talk of who would take over permanently continued from then until late September of the following season when the club finally gave him the title of Team Manager, although without a contract. By now things had changed at Edgeley Park though and although County had a reasonable start back in Division Four the money troubles were beginning to influence the manager's chances of strengthening the side. An injury to keeper Alan Ogley also messed up County's plans not least when an amateur had to play in the FA Cup tie at Grantham which County lost. It was also a stage where with crowds falling and any bid for a County player was likely to succeed. At times it was also reported that the board were telling the manager what sort of players he needed to sign.

County finished that first season in 11th place and His own end of season summary for 1970-71 was that the season was not bad but could do better with the playing staff 75% better than at the end of last season.
                                   
At the start of the 1971-72 season County were not setting the League alight settling into a place that threatened a re-election bid. However, it was to be the FA Cup that would prove Matt's eventual downfall. County had a good first round victory at Doncaster but a match at non-league Blyth Spartans cost Woods his job. After the game he told reporters he had been wasting his time as all his plans were right but he was let down by the players. .He got news of his sacking in a phone call from the secretary at the direction of the chairman later the same day.

MOVING ON

He was soon back in work again as he returned to EP later that season in charge of Preston's 'A' team. He later had a spell as coach at Southport and spent some time working as a coach for the Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools.

Matt receives his SCAN certificate from James Handford at the Launch night on 16 October 2010
Matt receives his SCAN certificate from James Handford
at the Launch night on 16 October 2010
Outside football Matt ran his own 2-wagon haulage company for over 20 years and stayed behind the wheel until in his 60s. In his later years he was suffering from ill health with leg troubles which when he attended the launch of the SCAN scheme he said was directly related to his time as a footballer.

A man who had probably one of the most effective two year spells at the club - it certainly took County some years to replace him. Matt passed away on Friday 26 September.

County Totals
League 85 games, 2 goals. FA Cup 5 games, League Cup 4 games.

Playing Career: Burscough, Everton (1947 amat), Blackburn Rovers (Nov 1956), Hakoah [aus] (cs 1963 player coach), Hellas [aus], Sydney City [aus], Luton Town (Jul 1965), Stockport County (1 Jul 1966), Drumcondra [irl] (9 Aug 1968 - Dec 1968).

Other Football Roles: Altrincham (Feb 1969-Aug 1969 manager), Stockport County (3 Oct 1969 chief coach; Apr 1970 acting manager; Sep 1970 - 12 Dec 1971 manager), Preston North End (1972 'A' team coach), Southport (1974 coach), Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools (coach).

Matt also played representative football for the Football League, a 4-0 victory over the League of Ireland in 1960; and New South Wales, a 2-5 defeat against-his first senior club Everton, in May 1964.

He will be sadly missed !

Ian Watts

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