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Matt Derbyshire: From Premier League outcast to top shot in Cyprus

Thursday 1st June 2017
Not every player has fond memories from their Premier League time, not even all Brits. Former Blackburn Rovers striker, Matt Derbyshire, most revered moments have certainly come on further shores. His recent decision to move to Cyprus has paid off.

When Derbyshire joined Blackburn in 2003, he was heralded as English football's next big thing. Born in Great Harwood, the 17-year-old had rejected a mouth-watering offer from Manchester United, favouring Blackburn 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. The teenager spent 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, Rovers boss Mark Hughes showed so much confidence in the youngster, he occasionally thrust him into his starting lineup. Derbyshire gratefully repaid that confidence, notching nine goals from 14 starts, including back-to-back strikes against both Manchester clubs. He also won 14 England U21 caps, featuring in the first competitive game at the new Wembley, a 3-3 draw against Italy in which he scored.

Sadly, things turned sour for the young forward following Hughes' departure to Manchester City, one year after his breakthrough.

"We all know Big Sam (Allardyce) 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."

Derbyshire was farmed out on loan to Olympiacos. He would go on to join permanently in the summer. His play for the Greek giants proved instrumental. They won the league/cup double in 2009. Yet, once again, he fell victim to a managerial change.
Another loan spell imminent, the Englishman desperately craved for a home return. That decision ultimately backfired. Derbyshire played for five different English sides in six years before being forced to uproot his family to play nearly 3,000 miles away 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 his new league's most prolific striker. 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 anywhere in Europe. In fact, just 14 players managed to outscore the ex-Birmingham City man on the continent.

The decision to leave home wasn't easy but has proven to be an enlightened one for the striker. He 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 on 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 Premier League flop. But with such phenomenal form, it could be just a matter of time before he stages an unprecedented return to make amends.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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