The Matt Harrold Interview

Yellow Sport’s Dave Bishop caught up with former Leyton Orient first-team coach Matt Harrold to discuss his recent appointment at Premier League Bournemouth, the seven years he spent as a player and on the coaching staff at O’s and his career in football to date –

Harrold, 39, who joined Leyton Orient from Crawley Town in 2017 before taking up a coaching position following his retirement as a player in 2020, left the Gaughan Group Stadium at the conclusion of last season to join the Cherries. 

He explained: “I spoke to Bournemouth about taking on what is a totally different role for me and despite it being a really hard decision to make – I think everyone knows how much Orient mean to me – in the end, I just couldn’t turn down such a fantastic opportunity.

“It will be my responsibility to arrange loans for the younger players at the club and track their elite pathways.  We have a multi-club system around Europe and Scotland.  The role also involves recruitment and a lot of networking too.  

“I’ve been in changing rooms and out on the training pitches for around twenty or so years now, so it is a bit of a change, but I will still be getting my football fix on a daily basis.”

Looking back on O’s return to Sky Bet League One last season and what might lie ahead for the club during the forthcoming campaign and in the future, Harrold enthused: “You have to say that it was a hugely successful season.  Most especially taking into consideration the injuries we had and the fact that so many other clubs in the division had so much of a larger budget at their disposal than ourselves.

“Losing big players like Theo Archibald, Dan Happe, Dan Agyei and Jordan Graham to injury at various stages was certainly a huge blow.  A tiny bit of regret that we didn’t push the other teams a little bit harder at the end, as I say, injuries definitely took their toll and we ran out of steam a bit.

“Moving forward, the club are on the edge of something big.  Is the manager capable of getting results given the resources he has at his disposal?  You have to say he is. He’s won two leagues and everything is in place.  It’s a strong league and it’s just got stronger with the teams that have come up and the likes of Birmingham City, Huddersfield and Rotherham dropping down.  O’s have some top-class players through and I think they can really kick on now and do well.

“Obviously, Justin Edinburgh deserves so much credit for getting everything back on track when the club dropped into non-league after so much turmoil.  A great guy and a great family and I have unbelievable memories of Justin both as a man and for the fantastic job he did during his time at Orient.

“There are so many good people behind the scenes.  Nigel, Kent, Matty Porter, Martin Ling and PT (Paul Terry) to name just a few.  They are a fantastic bunch of lads in the dressing room – Prats (Darren Pratley) and Becs (Omar Beccles) run that and the team spirit is great. 

“Richie signing a new three-year contract recently was a massive statement of intent and the best bit of business ever by the club.  He is a top class manager and has had such a positive influence on the place since he arrived.  Football can be fickle.  If you don’t have the right person at the top that the fans can relate to, get behind and have confidence in, things can become difficult and turn toxic very quickly.”

So, looking back on a career that took in fourteen clubs and saw Harrold play over five hundred games from 2001 to 2020, which of the clubs he represented during that time held the fondest memories for him?  “There are two.  Orient obviously and Bristol Rovers.  I loved it at Rovers even though it all ended in tears there when we were relegated into the National League.  I joined them after leaving Shrewsbury.  I really enjoyed my time in Bristol.  Loved the place and loved the fans – a proper club for sure.

“Playing in the O’s promotion team in 2018/19 is obviously a highlight of my career.  That said, with two months of the season to go, I didn’t think I would be staying.  I hadn’t played that much but decided when I got the chance to really give it everything and see how things ended up.  Little things went my way, I ended up staying and I loved it.  That promotion was crucial to the club because if we hadn’t gone up, you don’t really know what would have happened.

“The FA Trophy Final at Wembley was weird.  We had already had three weeks off at the end of the season and AFC Fylde had been in the Play-Off Final there just the week before having lost to Salford City.  They just rolled up and deserved to win.  It just wasn’t meant to be for us on the day.”

Following spells as caretaker manager at Crawley in 2017 and O’s following Kenny Jackett’s departure in 2022, was making the move up into full-time club management something that had ever appealed to him?  “I always thought I would become a manager but after being in each of those roles, I wasn’t actually sure.  Let’s just say, I enjoy sleeping at night” he laughed.

“I never say never though.  I had a long, decent playing career, been a coach, first-team coach and have now moved into what I am doing at Bournemouth. Maybe I would have carried on and eventually looked to get into management but ultimately, I made the decision to go down this new route and I’m really excited to have been given such a brilliant opportunity.”