Matthew Lawrence (footballer)
|Full name||Matthew James Lawrence|
|Date of birth||19 June 1974|
|Place of birth||Northampton, England|
|Height||1.81 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in)|
|Playing position||Right back, Centre back|
|2014–||Burgess Hill Town||(1)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 18 May 2013 (UTC).
Lawrence began his career as a midfielder, starting out late at Grays Athletic in August 1995, age 21, having taken an American Literature degree, whilst playing college football (soccer, to distinguish from American football) in the USA for Hartwick College. In February 2009, Hartwick inducted Lawrence into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Five months later, he became a Football League player, when he joined Wycombe Wanderers, for £20,000. He made 21 appearances for Wycombe before moving on to Fulham, for an undisclosed fee. He spent a strong 20 months at the West-London side, making over 60 appearances, before going back to Wycombe, on a free transfer, following Fulham's failure to gain promotion to Division One.
He had a more successful spell at The Chairboys this time, before going to Millwall in March 2000, for £200,000. At The Lions, he began a new role, as a right-back, and starred, only missing one game and being voted the fans' "Player of The Year", as Millwall were promoted to Division One as champions in 2000–01 season. He started the 2001–02 season well, but sustained concussion, the results of which kept him out of the side for some time. On his return, he found his best form to date for the Lions, as they reached the Division One play-offs.
At the start of the 2003–04 campaign, Lawrence fell out with Lions boss Mark McGhee, and looked to be on his way out The New Den. However, McGhee was replaced by Dennis Wise, and Lawrence got his place back. It was then that he switched to central defence, playing alongside Darren Ward, and the duo stood out, with the Lions reaching the 2004 FA Cup Final, for which Lawrence was captain, and thus qualifying for the UEFA Cup.
Boss Wise left the club at the end of the 2004–05 season, and defensive partner Ward left for Crystal Palace, and Lawrence found himself playing in a number of positions, under a variety of different managers, during the disastrous 2005–06 campaign, as the Lions were relegated back to League One.
Nigel Spackman was appointed manager at the New Den, but Lawrence did not play competitively under him, as he moved to rivals Crystal Palace, to rekindle his partnership with Darren Ward. After an average first season, Lawrence began to excel under the leadership of Neil Warnock at Selhurst Park. He scored his first goal for Palace against Sheffield Wednesday on 22 March 2008. His contract at Selhurst Park expired at the end of the 2009–10 season, and in August 2010 he joined Gillingham of League Two on a one-year deal, and made his debut for them in goalless draw away to Hereford United on 14 August.
Life outside football
In preparation for the 2007–08 season, Lawrence wrote a weekly "pre-season diary" for The London Paper. This appeared every Monday for five weeks, a popular piece which led to him being given a regular column in the matchday programme over the season.
He was signed up to write a weekly column for The Mirror.
- "Hartwick College to Induct Eight Into Athletic Hall of Fame". Hartwick College. 17 February 2009. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Hartwick Athletics Hall of Fame". Hartwick College. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Sheff Wed 2–2 Crystal Palace". BBC. 22 March 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2010.
- "Gills snap up Palace defender". Gillingham F.C. 7 October 2010. Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
- "Lawrence coup for Hawks". NonLeagueDaily.com. 10 July 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2012.