Of the many new additions to the Loyola Meralco Sparks over the recent months, arguably one of the most important was the acquisition of new First Team Assistant Coach and Youth Academy manager, Matt Ward. Fresh from a successful stint in Taiwan, where he guided a Division Two club to the title and subsequent promotion to the country’s top tier, the Englishman has made the move to the Philippines, in what he believes is an “ideal step” in his coaching career.
“For me, it’s a well-run club, with a potential to go on and dominate the next six, seven, eight years if we get things right. And that is really attractive, to find a secure team, who will support you in a good league. Already, they’ve shown me that they look after you like a real family,” said the 33-year-old Lincoln native, who has just started settling into the country.
Although born and raised in England and recently stationed in Taiwan, the holder of coaching licenses from both his native country and Australia, is not a stranger to the United Football League, nor the Sparks in particular. And he admits the step up in quality was a big factor in his decision to move to the Philippines.
“I’ve followed the UFL for the last couple of years, especially the Sparks, so I’ve got a good knowledge base of background and history,” he said, before listing the factors that sealed his move to Loyola. “The club’s professionalism, the ability in players, the opposition, and a vision for the future. Of course, the potential for AFC Cup involvement and finding success in the Asian region is massive as well, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Aside from helping take the First Team to new heights, though, Ward has also been appointed as the new manager for the Youth Academy, a responsibility that brings plenty of excitement from the young coach.
“The opportunity is huge because in a football club, the academy is one of the most important things. This is where your players should come from. You can use it as player development to save on salaries of foreign players. It’s an opportunity to build players and bring them into the first team, and even make national team players. The potential of the academy is massive, and I’m excited about the backing from the company and the vision where we want to go in the next few years as well.”
Despite only recently being appointed to his role in the academy, there are already some big developments lined up for the club’s youngest members.
“We already have a few trips to Europe planned, and there are some more being planned now. What I want here is to have the best kids and to give them the best opportunity to reach their full potential, whether that be on a national level or international level.”