Matt Elliott will be forever remembered & associated with the O'Neill years at Leicester City Football Club.
Bought from Oxford United for nearly £2m by Martin O'Neill he became the kingpin of City's defence during that period.
But he could also be relied on to go up field and pop a few in the net at the other end when required and he did this with devastating effect, twice, in the Carling Cup final at The Old Wembly as Leicester beat Tranmere Rovers to win the Cup for the second time.
Here matt talks to Leicester till I Die
How did you get into playing football & from what age?
The usual way of most kids really, playing from about age 4 and playing for schools, local teams etc.
Who were the first teams that you played for as a child?
West Ewell Juniors and Talisan FC were my first local clubs, with Wimbledon (10yrs-12yrs) and Crystal Palace (12yrs-14yrs) being my first professional clubs.
Did you always want to be professional footballer & if you hadn’t what career path would you have followed?
Yes, up to a point. I just enjoyed playing really and never thought I would make professional level. I would probably have been involved in the building trade.
When you were starting out which footballer was your hero & why?
Tony Currie of Leeds and England. I supported Leeds, as a kid, and he was such a skilful and stylish player. Also he was a great personality on the pitch.
Which club did you dream about playing for & why?
Leeds. As I said, they were my team, as a lad
When you started out you played non league for Leatherhead, did you ever believe you’d end up lifting a trophy at Wembley & playing international football?
No, not at all. It was actually Epsom & Ewell FC that I played non-league football for, I never played for Leatherhead, but I never imagined that I'd ever be a professional.
How did the move from Oxford United to Leicester City come about?
There had been interest from several clubs for a while and luckily enough, Martin O'Neil decided to take a gamble on me. I was 28 and told Oxford Utd how desperate I was to grab the chance and thankfully they agreed to sell me.
What was Martin O’Neill like to play under?
Tremendous. If you did well for him and gave maximum commitment he would make you feel like you were the best player in the game. You also feared upsetting him and he never let anybody rest on their laurels.
We have all seen how hyper Martin was during a game, was he the same when you were not actually playing & socially?
No, he is quite reserved and studious away from the games. His energy transferred to the players at match time but away from it he is very much in control, and has an air of authority about him.
How do you remember your time at Leicester City?
With great affection. We had our ups and downs but i enjoyed every second of it. It was by far the most successful period of my career and the atmosphere was always one of togetherness.
Over your playing career for LCFC you played in many memorable matches but which was YOUR favourite & least favourite & why?
Probably the two Worthington cup finals. Against Tranmere, in 2000, everything went well, both for me personally and the team. To score both goals, win man-of-the-match, be captain and lift the trophy at Wembley was the stuff of dreams. Against Tottenham we didnt really perform and knew that we had thrown away an opportunity for success against a Tottenham team that most people considered favorites. We should have beaten them.
I am sure being beaten by Bergkamp when he scored his ‘wonder’ goal is not a memory you cherish, but when something like that happens are you able to appreciate what had just gone on and applaud the guy for doing what he did ?
Yes definitely. Bergkamp was probably the most technically gifted forward that I ever played against, so it was not overly embarrassing to be beaten by such a player. Having said that, I should have done much better....I was too busy being pleased with myself that I had just scored the equaliser at the other end!!!
Whilst you were at Leicester, who was your best mate on the playing staff & who didn’t you get on least with?
I had lots of close team mates through the years. Gerry Taggart and me were big mates, and still are. I pretty much got on with all of the lads to some degree, although Dennis Wise proved himself to be a not particularly nice individual, as we had previously suspected.
For those of a certain age, the era of O’Neill, Lennon, Izzett, Savage & yourself was City’s ‘Golden’ era. What was the atmosphere like in that team.
The atmosphere was much more relaxed than I had previously imagined at a premier league club. Relative success obviously helped things but also, Martin O'Neill encouraged us to enjoy ourselves and be expressive, which aided the squad to forge a great team spirit and there were some great characters in the squad at that time.
Martin tried to lure you to Celtic I believe, why didn’t that happen?
Yes, that is true. Everything was pretty much agreed but I was slightly hesitant about moving my family to Scotland. Leicester offered me an improved contract to stay and I was more than happy to accept and stay at the club.
Talking about Scotland, you were chosen to play International football for Scotland, tell me how that came about?
Basically, I qualified to play for Scotland due to my Grandmother being Scottish. Playing for England would have been my dream but my chances of doing that were slim and I decided to gratefully accept the offer of international football from Craig Brown.
You were in the Scotland squad for the 1998 World Cup what was that like and what are your memories of the tournament?
It was an amazing experience. We travelled to America, pre-World Cup, and played U.S.A and Columbia before playing the mighty Brazil in the opening game of the tournament. The next two games against Norway and Morocco didnt go to plan and we were eliminated early. The biggest disappointment was that I actually didnt get any game time and remained on the bench! This ultimately, became a bit of a drag and it finished with me being very frustrated. Having said that, it was brilliant just to be involved and I never dreamt that I would be.
You were still at City when Peter Taylor arrived with a great reputation but ultimately failed to live up to this. What was he like as a man and how did he compare as a manager to Martin O’Neill.
Poorly! He seemed a decent enough person as a man but, in my opinion, was very much out of his depth. He tried to make too many changes too quickly, from Martin's days, and stamp his own mark on things. Also, his signings were not up to the standards set by previous players and were far too expensive.
Do you think the Managers job at City was always going to be a poisoned chalice following on from Martin for whoever took over the job.
Yes, to a certain extent, unless they appointed someone of a very high pedigree. What Martin achieved was appreciated at the time but only fully in the aftermath of what followed.
You still live in Leicestershire, do you always look for City’s result first & do you get to The King Power Stadium often?
Yes, I always look for City's result. I get down to the Kin Power Stadium whenever I can but have other commitments most of the time. I am involved with the Academy at the club now so will no doubt be attending more games this season.
City’s fortunes have changed somewhat in the past 12 months. Do you believe the Thai’s & Sven are the team to take City back to Martin’s glory years and even exceed them?
It is too early to predict how far things will go really. The framework is certainly in place for the club to really push on. The financial backing is there, the support from the fans is there, the ability to sign good players is also there so I fully expect City to be up where they should be, sooner rather than later.
If City don’t go up next term, can you see Sven staying or do you think he will jump ship when his contract runs out ?
If things dont go to plan this year then I think it is quite likely that there will be changes, although only the people concerned will know exactly what the situation and expectancies are.
You have been a manager yourself at Stafford Rangers where unfortunately things didn’t work out. Tell us about this.
I found it enjoyable to an extent but extremely frustrating.....both the standard of football and the financial side of things.
Would you go back into football management?
Yes, if the right opportunity came along. I am involved in a number of things away from management and am currently concentrating on them, but you learn in football to never say never!
You have started The Matt Elliott Football Development Scheme details of which can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002387630307
Tell us how this came about and what you are hoping it will achieve & also how people can get involved. Yeah, I am in business with a close friend of mine and the Matt Elliott Football Development Scheme is formed as part of the sports coaching sector of Touchline Sports. The Scheme is, primarily, set up to enhance the development of young footballers at grass roots level in Leicestershire.
With our qualified and vastly experienced coaching team, we are devoted to encouraging children to not only take part in, but also enjoy the game of football. Our aim is to supply local children with an outlet for fun and exercise whilst also bringing through the next generation of talented footballers utilising our strong links with professional clubs and organisations.
Check us out at our Facebook and Twitter pages or visit us at www.touchlinesports.co.uk
Tell us how this came about and what you are hoping it will achieve & also how people can get involved. To make sure, first and foremost, that you just enjoy playing the game, at whatever level you are at. Many children get disappointed because they put far too much pressure on themselves, as do others. Give your best effort and express yourself and see how far it takes you....and have fun along the way.
Thank you for doing this Interview Matt may I, on behalf of all LTID fans wish you great success with the Development Scheme.
ALL THE BEST, MATT.