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Feature: How Matty Blair has also become a big player for Doncaster Rovers off the pitch

Matty Blair coaching
Matty Blair coaching

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably already well aware that Matty Blair is a genuinely good bloke.

His total commitment and never-say-die approach on the pitch made him almost an instant hit with Doncaster Rovers fans following his move from Mansfield Town two summers ago.

Matty Blair coaching

Matty Blair coaching

And his affability and attitude towards sport, and life in general, has also turned him into a star off the pitch over a busy, and emotional, last 12 months.

Blair suffered the tragic loss of his brother Ross last July, aged 32, after a three-year battle with an incurable brain tumour.

Around the same time he became a father for the first time, to son Archie.

Still, that has not stopped the 28-year-old throwing himself into all manner of activities with Rovers’ famed community programme.

Matty Blair speaks to Club Doncaster Sports College pupils along with Andy Butler

Matty Blair speaks to Club Doncaster Sports College pupils along with Andy Butler

From school visits to coaching sessions at the Keepmoat Stadium, supporting the club’s walking football and Fit Rovers initiatives to making house visits in the build-up to Junior Takeover Day, Blair has become a proud ambassador of the important work of Club Doncaster Foundation.

And for anyone fortunate enough to meet him, the former Kidderminster Harriers, York City and Fleetwood Town winger has a very worthwhile story to tell them.

“I didn’t turn professional until I was 21 or 22,” he said.

“I can tell them that I was playing football for my local team in Coventry, Racing Club Warwick.

Matty Blair during Rovers' annual visit to Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Matty Blair during Rovers' annual visit to Doncaster Royal Infirmary

“From there, because I enjoyed playing and worked hard, I kept going and managers could see my determination to win.

“I signed my first full time contract with Kidderminster in the Conference in 2010. The next thing you know I’m standing in front of people telling them my story.

“It’s a privilege that they want to listen to me. It’s great.”

He added: “When we go into schools you see the kids and you can tell straight away the ones that are interested in football and the ones that aren’t.

Matty Blair

Matty Blair

“They ask you questions like ‘did you always want to be a footballer?’ and ‘how did you do it?’.

“I tell them it comes down to your own mind-set, determination and work rate.

“I tell them my story that I wasn’t at a club as an academy player and I think they get some satisfaction out of that.

“If you keep working hard you can achieve your goals. Never give up on your dream.”

Professional footballers, no matter who they are or who they play for, seem to possess an innate ability to make a child’s face light up upon them entering the room.

Blair’s own story, detailing his backdoor route into the professional game, gives him even more resonance with young people, those perhaps unsure of their next career step or needing extra motivation.

For Blair, just the opportunity to meet new people and pass on his wisdom gives him great satisfaction.

“When you go into a room or a community environment and you see people smile because they’re happy to see a Doncaster Rovers player, that for me is enough,” he said.

“I always think if I can have an impact on one person’s life in my whole football career that’s me doing my role as a footballer and as a so-called role model in the community.

“Every time I do it I get enjoyment out of speaking to different people, whether that be the younger generation, older generation, people who know nothing about football and people who are mad into it.

“You don’t know who you’re going to bump into and it’s great to meet some really interesting people, mix with them and help out.

“I had one young lad in school ask whether I played with Jamie Vardy at Fleetwood.

“How he knew I played for Fleetwood, which was three or fours years ago, I don’t know! He was only in Year 4 or 5, he’d have been tiny.

“I’m impressed with the knowledge of the younger generation and the interest they take in football.”

Blair had a tough time last summer but he’s in a good place now, literally.

And he is thrilled to be in a position to give something back to a club that has supported him through his most difficult period of his life.

“I wanted to do all the community stuff before everything happened but especially now,” he said.

“Like I’ve said in other interviews, I’m in a place now where I don’t think I could be any happier.

“The football club I’m at, the manager I have, the players I’m playing with, my family situation, it’s all just one big tick in my life at the moment.

“I will help wherever I can, whatever needs to be done,” he added.

“Andy Butler’s the same. He’s brilliant in the community and a lot of the other lads do their bit too.”

I asked Matty at this point if there was anything else he would like to add.

“I always like to say thank you to everybody I come into contact with,” he said.

“Without people realising, you’re always learning and I’m always trying to improve myself and improve my situation.

“I’ve got a little boy now so I’m learning what’s the best way to do things for him.

“I’m trying to learn as much off the field as I do about things on it.

“When I meet people I may pick up little things that they do that I like and I’ll start using it in my own life.

“That’s how I think. And be a good person because people might think the same as me.

“They might look at me and think ‘I like what Matty Blair does, I’m going to start doing that’ - so I’ve affected that person. It all hopefully works in a nice circle.”

Matty Blair: a genuinely good bloke.