Matt Piper had a dream breakthrough at boyhood club Leicester City, playing in the Premier League and scoring the last-ever goal at Filbert Street. A £3.5m move to Sunderland followed but by the time that he retired at just 26, Piper’s life had unravelled.
From his new autobiography, Out of the Darkness, Piper details how his life spiralled out of control before he got back on track with the help of Sporting Chance…
Matt had a career going and as a teenager breaking through in the Leicester first team. He had been on loan at Mansfield from the start of the 2001/02 season. His progress were seen as sensational and eyes were on him to be moving back and become a new local wonder at Leicester.
He made his debut in a terrible 0-6 trashing by Leeds, but still became a player who also had his highs that season becoming the last goalscorer at Filbert Street. The game also became Matt Piper’s last appearance for Leicester as he against his own will moved on to Sunderland for a fee of £3.5million and in a way became part of a rescue of a club close to liquidation.
His time with Sunderland became a nightmare as injuries just stopped his progress and during four years only appearing in 24 league games. The all ended in retirement from the professional game at the age of 26.
His struggles afterwards was immence as his book tells every detail about, even after his return back to work for Leicester, in a coaching capacity, he could not cope with life and after a total breakdown taken to hospital and finally getting help that made him take self action.
He did join Sporting Chance and up to that point, Matt says his mum mentioned Tony Adams and it resonated with him. He continues; – my old man had been a huge Arsenal fan, and up until I was about 14, I was still supporting them alongside Leicester. If they played each other, I’d want it to be a draw. Adams’ name was powerful in our house when I was growing up – my dad used to talk of him in high esteem as the club’s captain. My mum knew that too.
Sporting Chance is based at a Champneys resort in Hampshire within an amazing wooded area – it’s unbelievable. As I saw what looked like a cottage on the approach there, I remember thinking to myself that it felt like being in a children’s fairy-tale. You drive through these woods, which open out to a clearing with its accommodation in the middle. It was beautiful.
The first thing that’s liberating about Sporting Chance is that you’re surrounded by all of these positive people who don’t drink or take drugs – it’s uplifting. The way they talk is articulate and sharp. They’re clever people who know what they’re doing. It’s the cool thing to not do those things. When you go into any new environment, you look up to the top for your role models – they’re who you want to be like. That’s why that place is so special.
I don’t want to say that I’d be dead without Sporting Chance, because I just don’t know. But without doubt, it was an incredibly important period in my life for becoming the person I am now. If I’d continued the way I was going, then realistically I wouldn’t have been on this planet for much longer.
Sporting Chance allowed me to understand myself and my thought processes, and how to think about both on a different level. I didn’t have those tools before. I was seriously struggling – it wasn’t just being in a depressed state, but also having no idea of how to get out of it and deal with that adversity.
Most importantly, it helped to give me the focus that would change my life – and I’ll forever be grateful for that. Piper is today attached to BBC Radio Leicester and part of their team covering PL action with Leicester City involved.
- Full Name: Matthew James Parker
- Position: Winger
- Date of Birth: 29.09.1981
- Birthplace: Leicester
- Nation: England
- Major League Career
- 2000-02, Leicester City (16/101)
- 2001-02, Mansfield Town (Loan) (8/1)
- 2002-06, Sunderland, (24/0)