Matt Jarvis’ Norwich City career was one full of frustration and regret.
The England international spent an injury-hit three seasons at Carrow Road, failing to secure a long-term run in the side due to a lack of fortune with fitness. This summer, Jarvis’ three-year association with the club came to an end when his contract expired.
Sadly, but inevitably, a section of supporters decided to vent their frustration via social media directly to Jarvis, due to his lack of presence around the first-team.
For the first time since his release, Jarvis speaks exclusively to MyFootballWriter about his time at Norwich City, discussing a variety of topics from working under Alex Neil to how Louis Thompson served as the perfect pick-me-up in the darker days during his injury.
By design, these interviews aim to change perceptions and provide players with a platform on which to tell their story. Jarvis was the butt of jokes and sometimes dehumanised by the intensity of social media. He reveals how he broke down in front of his wife but also how retirement was something he never considered.
He lived through the sea of change at the football club, from a dressing room full of experienced, proven footballers to the first-ever overseas coach and a considerably younger dressing room.
Jarvis played 19 times for the Canaries, scoring one league goal.
Matt on arriving at Norwich City…
‘It started so well. When I signed there, I think it’s the best shape I’ve ever been in, physically. I was super fit and could go up and down (the pitch) all the time.
‘My performance in the first game (against Bournemouth) showed that. I had such a great start, scoring against Bournemouth at home and then against West Brom in the cup. For the next few games it was all going really well.
‘It’s so disappointing and I’m gutted that then I decided to block tackle Yaya Toure.’
‘I knew a couple of the lads and it was an experience going into a changing room where you don’t know too many people, but it was actually a really good dressing room. It was straight into the season and I had to jump straight into it and that meant it was a good start for me.
‘Slaven Bilic had just taken over at West Ham and he was great. I’d been involved in all the Europa League qualifying games in the early part of pre-season and I played in every game at the start of preseason.
‘Speaking to him, he didn’t really want me to go but he couldn’t guarantee I would play, so when the opportunity came to go to Norwich, I said ‘let’s go and start the journey up to Norwich.’
Matt on Alex Neil…
‘I spoke to him before I signed, and it was really positive.
‘When I went in, he was really particular and really on the ball on the clips from before games and talking to you. He used to bring me and Robbie [Brady], which was the left side, and he’d say ‘right, this is how the right back and the right midfielder, this is how they work, and this is how you stop them. It was all very thought out and all very particular.
‘For me, it was like wow. This is a lot of information and this is all really good, but I used to really enjoy that side of things. He’d make sure you went into games knowing exactly what you were going to face. He was very good in that aspect.
‘To a degree, there was little groups, but I wouldn’t say there was a divide at all. Everyone got on with everyone and as soon as it was out training and into games, there was a common goal and I don’t think you could read into anything that there was anything in the dressing room that could have consequently led to relegation.’
‘When you then get relegated, there is so much talk that goes on about players moving on and others coming in. In that group, there were a few that were coming out of contract, that were in their last year and there was a lot that was up in the air.
‘I wouldn’t say he lost the dressing room but there was plenty of politics and people’s positioning in the club and the dressing room maybe spoilt it a little it’.
Matt on injuries…
‘With my knee, I didn’t have an operation to start with. I did the full rehab like anyone else would and got back within the right time. But it was never quite right.
‘When I got back, I could still feel it and I couldn’t really do anything properly, I was having injections to get me through to the end of the season and then injections to get me through to pre-season. Getting back into pre-season, it was really sore. I couldn’t kick the ball properly with my right foot and was no good to anyone. I couldn’t carry on like this.
‘Once they opened me up, it didn’t show on the scan, but my medial wasn’t really attached properly. If I’d have known that from the start, who knows, it could have been so different.’
‘It’s demoralising [being injured].
‘It’s been the hardest few years of my life. Not being able to do the thing you’ve done for all of your life and that you’re passionate about is the hardest thing. I remember sitting there and thinking “I just don’t want to be in pain anymore”. Nobody should be thinking about that at 30 years of age.
‘Louis [Thompson} was injured at the time, the amount of days that one was struggling in the gym and the other would help them to get through it was great. We were both in similar boats.
‘At the time, I had a son. It was a nice distraction, but it also makes you want to get back even more because you want to take him to games and show him what his dad does for a living. The joys of taking him onto the pitch and seeing the crowd is something I couldn’t do. That was my end goal.
‘I did all of the rehab, all the running and all of the outside drills with the sports science staff, everything. Just as I would come back into the matchday set up, I’d tweak a groin. Another seven to ten days is fine but it would feel like another month because of the hard work I did. Knowing what’s in front of you makes it all the harder.’
Matt on mental resilience…
‘Mentally, I’m a lot tougher than I used to be.
‘It’s growing up and becoming a father that puts things into perspective. Football is my life – my wife would agree – it has taken over my life and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Those experiences have made me who I am today, they’ve given me the mental strength, belief and self-belief that I can do it and I have the quality to get back.’
‘I remember, vividly, I’d go to see an ankle specialist and it wouldn’t be going as well as I hoped, and I remember going back to the house and breaking down in tears. I was sat with my wife and I remember saying “I just don’t want to be in pain anymore”. It’s horrible. I have to smile because if not you’ll get me going again.
‘It’s a horrible place to be.
‘I didn’t like to breakdown in front of everyone else really. I think that’s a manly thing, but I felt I could do it in front of my wife. All of the lads have been brilliant for me. They could see what I was going through and how hard I was working. It wasn’t through the lack of effort.’
Matt on social media…
‘We’re normal human beings. Anyone who says they don’t read it and aren’t affected by it is lying.
‘You can be a very strong personality and you don’t bat an eyelid, but you do notice it. It doesn’t affect me like it used too because I’m older now. You don’t want to read stuff on social media that people are hammering you and saying, “why are you injured again?” and why are you this, why are you that, because it doesn’t help.
‘It isn’t a free pass to hammer people, that’s not what social media is for. To be getting hammered for doing your job is difficult and I had my fair share, for sure. I would say that 99 per cent of the Norwich fans were behind me and have since messaged me wishing me all the best. I fully thank them, and I wish it did go differently. I’m gutted it went the way it did.
‘I used to get messages like “you’ve not played for however long, what are you doing? You’re not at work”. I was doing more hours than anyone. When you’re injured, you’re in earlier and you finish later. You go to the games to cheer the lads on because you want to see them do well, you’re doing longer hours than anyone!’
‘I missed my son growing up, ultimately. I wasn’t there because I was trying to get myself fit, so I feel guilty that I wasn’t there watching him grow up. I missed two- and a-bit years of his life because I wanted to get fit. They are the sacrifices you make. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, it’s just the way it is.’
You can watch the entire interview on our newly created YouTube channel ‘Total Football’ (link below). Make sure you subscribe as well for some excellent upcoming content including an access-all-areas documentary following Dereham Town, and a piece on Norwich City Ladies FC.