Matt Derbyshire

Matt Derbyshire: The classic example of success outside the Premier League

Not every player has fond memories of their time in the Premier League; not even all Brits. For former Blackburn Rovers striker, Matt Derbyshire, his most revered moments has certainly come outside the shores, with his recent decision to move to Cyprus ultimately paying off.

When Derbyshire joined Blackburn in 2003, he was expected to become the next big thing in English football. Born in Great Harwood, the 17-year-old had rejected a mouth-watering offer from Manchester United in favour of Rovers, the club he supported as a child. However, his sojourn from the lower ranks to the elite division didn't exactly go as intended, with the teenager spending two years out on loan from Ewood Park.

Eventually, he did get his opportunity in 2007 after a successful campaign with Wrexham where he scored 10 goals from just 16 appearances. Then Rovers boss, Mark Hughes, showed so much confidence in the youngster and occasionally thrust him into his starting line-up. And Derbyshire, gratifyingly reposed that confidence, notching nine goals from 14 starts, including back-to-back strikes against both Manchester clubs.

But things sadly turned sour for the young forward following Hughes' departure to Manchester City just one year after his breakthrough. By then, he had won 14 England Under 21 caps including the first competitive game at the new Wembley, a 3-3 draw in which he scored.

"We all know Big Sam and I won't take anything away from him but I went from playing every week to being the fifth-choice striker," he recalled. "He said I had to fight for my place but I knew and we all know what centre-forwards he likes, the one big man up front."

As a result, Derbyshire was farmed out on loan to Olympiacos, which he would go on to join permanently in the summer. Playing for the Greek giants, he was instrumental as they won the league and cup double in 2009. Yet, he once again became the victim of another managerial change.

An extra loan spell was imminent and this time, the Englishman desperately craved for a home return. But that decision ultimately backfired. Derbyshire went on to play for five different English sides in just six years before being forced to uproot his family nearly 3,000 miles to play for Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus.

Now exactly 10 years since he dazzled for Rovers and scored that impressive goal for Stuart Pearce's team at Wembley, Derbyshire is enjoying an amazing revival as one of his country's most prolific strikers. With 24 league goals, the 31-year-old finished the season as Cypriot First Division Top Goalscorer. Putting this into perspective, it means he is only second to Harry Kane when compared to other English forwards playing anyway in Europe. In fact, just 14 players managed to outscore the ex-Birmingham City man on the continent.

His decision to leave home wasn't easy but has proven to be an enlightened one for the striker who owes his remarkable exploits to former Newcastle coach, John Carver.

"I loved playing in England but when Omonia came in I jumped at the chance. I'd played in Greece before and knew the lifestyle would be great. And the standard of football is better than people think as well. It's given me a new lease of life. The stats say I am in the best form of my life. John has made me the main man and given me the confidence every goalscorer needs. He knows my idol was Alan Shearer and takes every chance he has to mention him in training, having worked with him as Sir Bobby Robson's coach."

Derbyshire may still bear the tag of a Premier League flop. But with his phenomenal form, it's just a matter of time before he stages an unprecedented return to make amends. He has perfectly proven that you don't need to play in the Premier League to be deemed a success.

About the Author Toby

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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