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Inter Something Big: A Franchise On The Rock

Chasing Lamely

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I’d been looking forward to my retirement. After twenty years as a professional footballer, I was more than ready to ride off into the sunset and run a pub in the age-old tradition of ex-players. As it happened, my retirement lasted all of two weeks before I was approached with an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down: the chance to go home.

It still felt strange referring to Gibraltar as “home.” Although I was born here and, in the latter stages of my career, had made twenty-eight appearances for the national side, I had grown up in England. As a navy brat, it was mere luck that led to my being born on the Rock. My father was stationed here and my mother – ever the loyal wife – had followed him during his posting. We moved to Portsmouth when I was three, and nobody ever thought that I would return. I wouldn’t if it hadn’t been for football.

I had barely come around from the post-retirement party hangover when the news that would change my plans broke: Hemel Hempstead Town had hit financial troubles. It popped up in the crawl bar on Sky Sports News and, for whatever reason, was the only thing on the screen my eyes could focus on. It was entirely useless information, but it stuck with me longer than it should have. I threw back a couple of painkillers and go back to bed for round two with whatever her name was.

A couple of days later – I think – I was rudely awoken by the sound of my phone ringing. She was gone. I couldn’t remember her name. Probably didn’t ask for it – I rarely did. Or needed to.

“What?” I grunted into the phone, a mixture of confusion, anger, and feeling like I’d been hit by a car.

“Matty,” after a moment of processing, I figured out that it was my agent, Rick, “I’ve got an offer for you.”

“I retired, remember? We had a talk, put out a press release, threw a party Pretty sure you were there, mate.”

“I was. They’re not asking you to play. They want you to manage.”



“Milan?” My mind instantly filled with plans of chasing models and gorging myself into retirement shape on the local cuisine.

“Not quite.”

A few days later, I was sitting in a fancy restaurant waiting to be interviewed. I don’t know how they even talked me into that, under the circumstances.

The news had been bigger than I expected; the demise of Hemel had led to a takeover by a group of ambitious businessmen. In the space of a week – allegedly – deals had been done and the club now known as “Franchise 2” by a large segment of football fans was joining the Vanarama South: Inter Gibraltar were the newest members of the English footballing pyramid. The tiny footballing nation – the place where I was born – now had a representative in the English game. And here I was – Matty Walker, Gibraltar’s favourite footballing son – waiting to be interviewed to lead the project.

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Intriguing concept - really looking forward to seeing how it pans out! Hope your entry into the pyramid is somewhat more successful than Guernsey's

Good luck!

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2 hours ago, he_2 said:

Intriguing concept - really looking forward to seeing how it pans out! Hope your entry into the pyramid is somewhat more successful than Guernsey's

Good luck!

Thanks man, me too!


Paul Williams was not the kind of chairman you expected to be involved in a project like this: an old school Yorkshireman. I learned that Paul was a Leeds fan who’d moved his business – a betting firm – to the Rock in the mid-90s and, as his company had grown more successful with the advent of online betting, he’d begun to invest heavily in the local football scene. His money helped to back the vision that brought Gibraltar into UEFA as a member in their own right. In many ways, he was responsible for my international career, and now he wanted me for the next stage of his project.

It hadn’t been your traditional interview. In truth, it was more of a briefing than anything. Paul was apparently a man who was used to getting what he wanted, and he had the charm to pull it off. He never questioned whether I was going to take the job and, by the time we were done, neither did I.

He laid out a vision for the club. The building of top-class training and youth facilities had already started, he assured me. A stadium would come in due course. My job was to oversee the development of the young talent coming through and to try and establish both the club and the national team in the big time of professional football. Having been a keen player of Football Manager during my career, I knew of the San Marino Challenge. I knew the scale of that challenge in real life, too, as my mother was Sammarinese and I had cousins who played in the league… but here I was, living my own version in my own home country.

He explained to me that, as the biggest name to ever come from the Rock – I was one of only two to have graced the Premier League in England – he wanted me to not just be his manager, but the figurehead of the whole project. He wanted to build a “Golden Generation” of Gibraltarian players who would boast both Premier League and international tournament experience before I was done. No pressure!

We’d barely got through our main courses before we’d agreed on a deal – I couldn’t tell you how much it was for or how long at the time, either, because I was enraptured by the blunt Yorkshireman with big dreams for this new club in a tiny footballing nation.

By dessert, the flights were already booked, and he was talking me through the local real estate options. I liked this lad; we were kindred spirits – he talked me into taking a job I didn’t know I wanted faster than I’ve chatted models half my age into bed, and he refused to take no for an answer.

If I turn out as good a manager as he seems to think I can be, and he keeps up this drive and vision, we might just create our own unique legacy here.

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