Matt Derbyshire interview: Blazing a trail abroad and praying for Blackburn

In Depth

Ask people to name the leading English goalscorer across Europe and most would probably say Harry Kane.

You may be surprised to hear, then, that the correct answer is actually former Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Rotherham United striker Matt Derbyshire

Derbyshire is currently plying his trade Cyprus with Omonia Nicosia in what is second foray outside of English football following a two-year spell in Greece with Olympiakos.

The 31-year-old moved to Cyprus last summer, deciding to leave Rotherham after two consecutive seasons as their top scorer for a new challenge abroad.

The move has certainly paid off for the former England Under-21 international.

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With 25 goals in all competitions, including 23 goals in 31 appearances in the Cypriot First Division, Derbyshire is enjoying the best run of form of his career and is England’s second-highest-placed representative after Kane in the European Golden Shoe rankings.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Derbyshire says he has no regrets about swapping English football for the unknown quantity of Cyprus.

“It is great fun out here and I am really enjoying playing in Cyprus,” Derbyshire says. “I am playing well and scoring lots of goals so I couldn’t be happier with the way things have worked out. It has probably gone beyond my expectations.

“If I am being totally honest I don’t miss England at all. Obviously I miss family and friends, but everything else is great out here. I am enjoying my football, and my family enjoy living here so it’s all positive.”

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Derbyshire, of course, is one of very few British players currently playing abroad, but it is something he would not hesitate in encouraging others to do at some point in their career.

“I get asked quite a lot if other British players should go and play abroad, and from my own personal experience I would say players should definitely try something new.

“I know it can be difficult to settle in a foreign country, especially for people with young families, but my kids are having a fantastic time at school and learning in life.

“And you can relax away from football at the beach here and create many special memories.

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“As a player, you are learning about playing in different leagues, different cultures and languages and it can prove such a brilliant experience.

“Some people question the standard of football here, but I think people would be surprised how good it actually is.”

Derbyshire was signed for Omonia by John Carver, and though the former Newcastle United boss has since been sacked, Derbyshire remains hugely grateful for the role he played in getting him to the club.

“I didn’t know John at all and had never worked with him before, but he was one of the main reasons I decided to join Omonia,” he says.

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“He sat me down and told me I was going to be the main striker at the club. That was great to hear and gave me great confidence.

“He gave me the opportunity to come and play for Omonia, and when he did the leave the club in February it was unfortunate timing.”

Derbyshire’s goalscoring exploits for Omonia will not have gone unnoticed by clubs back in England and elsewhere, but the striker is so happy with life in Cyrpus that he is in talks about extending his stay beyond 2018.

“We will see what the club has to say [about contract negotiations], but we have had early discussions about it.” he says.

“It is something I would love to do as everything has been great since I moved out here so if I can earn a new contract for an extra few years that would be fantastic.”

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While Derbyshire’s career is experiencing a renaissance right now, the same cannot be said for his boyhood club Blackburn Rovers as they battle against two of Derbyshire’s other former clubs, Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest, to avoid the ignominy of dropping into England’s third tier.

“Blackburn is my club. I supported them as a boy and played for them so to see where they are now is really sad,” he says.

“I will have always have fond memories of my time at Blackburn even though it did not work like I hoped it would.

“To see Blackburn go down into League One would be disastrous for everyone involved with the club and I am hoping they can get themselves out of it and get back where they belong in the Premier League.”

By Pete O’Rourke

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