Sam Matthews is one of Bournemouth's hottest prospects. Still only 16, he has featured in a Championship squad and also played against European giants Real Madrid- something that would make players twice his age envious. Here, I speak to him about life at one of England's fastest growing clubs and also his plans for the future.
When you signed a professional contract with Bournemouth, were you aware of interest from Manchester United or Fulham, and if so, why did you choose Bournemouth?
I was first offered my professional contract from Bournemouth in the summer of 2012 but didn’t end up officially signing until this summer before the season started, so during that period of time I was aware of some interest from different clubs but I felt it was the right decision to stay at Bournemouth. I’d been at the club since the age of 10 and it seemed right that I signed here. I also felt being in and around a first team squad at a young age would develop me most as a player so that was a big factor in me signing.
With you, Harry Cornick and the recent signings of Josh O'Hanlon and Jonathan Meluba, Bournemouth have some very promising young players. Do you think it is important for a club to nurture it's younger players rather than buying stars?
I think it is important for a club to produce young players from the academy as it usually means those players understand the culture of the club and also the philosophy of how the club plays. At Bournemouth I think there has always been an interest in the youth system and the club has produced some great players who have gone on to have really good careers. It is more difficult for young players with the club now being in the championship. However now with the quality within the first team you can learn so much.
In the summer, you featured in the game against Real Madrid. How much did you learn from a game of that stature?
The game against Real Madrid in the summer was a great experience for me, only a few months before I was playing in school games with my friends so to then go and play against the quality of the Real Madrid players at 16 was incredible. It’s something I’ll never forget and it was great to try and match myself against the calibre of those players.
Players such as Ian Harte and Richard Hughes ave had years of experience in the top flight. Is it useful having them around as a younger player?
Players such as Ian Harte and Richard Hughes are great for young players like me, along with the other players in the squad you can learn so much from them. I think you can learn by just talking about football with players like them. The experiences they have to draw on and their knowledge of the game is invaluable. In pre season when I featured in games and played with them it was brilliant, they can help keep you at ease and it can be like playing your way through a game with a coach.
Bournemouth have one of the brightest young managers in the country in Eddie Howe. What is it like working under him?
Working under the manager has been great for me, I love the way we try and play the game and obviously he is the one who has imposed that style on the club so much. Everyone knows what a brilliant manager he is and I’m thankful for the faith he has shown in me. It’s a privilege to be coached by him.
Bournemouth's style of passing football is widely admired. Would you say this type of game has influenced your development in a positive way?
The style of football the club plays and the philosophy of the club has influenced me hugely as a player. Ever since I joined at the age of 10 there has always been a focus on playing the game the right way with possession and playing creative, attacking football. I’ve grown up being coached to play that way, so for me, I love the fact the club is recognised as being a team who tries to play good football. Being the sort of player I am, it suits me that we try play that way and just generally as a football fan I’ve always admired the teams and players who play that style of football.
Who is the player you most admire at Bournemouth?
I admire all the players at the club and I think you can learn something from each player. Obviously watching the players similar to my position helps me a lot but I think you can learn things from all the players, whether that’s off or on the pitch.
Finally, What are your ambitions for 2014?
After suffering with an injury after the start of this season the ambition for me in 2014 is just to get back fully fit and training again. Hopefully I can train well and keep developing as a player over the year. I just look forward to getting back to training each day and playing games in the aim to and try be involved in any squads and gain any appearances over the year.