Matt Jarvis: "Wolves are such a big part of my football career"
Matt Jarvis helped Wolves to promotion to the Premier League in 2009.  
 (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

Matt Jarvis' time at Wolverhampton Wanderers was arguably the winger's most successful period of his playing career. Promotion to the Premier League in 2009, transforming into one of the most efficient wingers in Europe and earning his first England call-up were all part of his time in the West Midlands.

The now 34-year-old now plays in the "slightly different" National League with Woking, currently sat in 18th in the fifth tier of English football. For him, it is just what he needed and wanted at this stage of his life.

Despite leaving the club for Wolves' opponents on Monday evening, West Ham United,14 years after first signing for the Wanderers, Jarvis still has Wolves close to heart.

He said, "I absolutely loved my time there. I still do. I still go back and there are still loads of people that are still there. It is such a big part of my footballing career. I absolutely loved it.

"It's not a regret that I left, no. It was footballing reasons.

"Obviously, I was the club-record signing at the time, so it came with its pressures. I felt it went really well. I think the last season at Wolves and the first season at West Ham I put in the most crosses in Europe, and the most successful crosses in Europe. As far as I was concerned, statistically-wise, I was definitely enjoying a good vein of form."

Starting out at Gillingham

Following his release from the books at Millwall, Jarvis joined Gillingham at the age of 17. He made his debut in 2003 against Sunderland in the Championship on a Tuesday night.

"It was an amazing experience. My debut was against Sunderland, an evening kick-off, their team was full of superstars already. They had Stewart Downing and Julio Arca playing down the left in that team, which was a fantastic squad of players.

It was a real eye-opener into what it was like to play in the first team in the Championship at 17. What you need to do, the quickness, the sharpness of the players and the football. It was a fantastic experience and leaves you wanting more and more of it."

Whilst plying his trade for Gillingham's first team, Jarvis continued to assist the club's youth team in the FA Youth Cup and work the duties of the everyday academy player.

"I played in the FA Cup and FA Youth Cup in the same week. It was quite a surreal experience. Incredible really. I think we did really well as a youth team in the FA Youth Cup. We beat Liverpool at Anfield, we then beat Watford at home and then we lost to Blackburn Rovers away.

"If we had got through that round we would have had Manchester United. We were 1-0 up in the game as well, then we lost 2-1 in the last few minutes; it was so disappointing, but an absolutely incredible experience. Then to play in that, and the FA Cup in the same week, was mind-blowing.

"The older players were really good to me, they showed me the ropes, as well as making sure my feet were very much firmly on the ground. At the particular time, I was more training with the first team. 

"The FA Youth Cup is a huge thing. I was going back to play with my teammates in the youth team and then back training with the first-team and doing all the duties I had to do. I still had to wash all the boots, mine were Andy Hessenthaler and Wayne Jones, who was the assistant manager at the time."

In his final campaign at the Priestfield Stadium, Jarvis contributed to 16 goals (six goals and 10 assists) as Gillingham finished seven points clear of the relegation places.

Despite the club's mediocre season, Jarvis' performances did not go unnoticed, as he was named in the PFA League One Team of the Year alongside Richie Wellens, Wes Hoolahan, Luke Varney and Billy Sharp.

Talking about his achievement, Jarvis said: "It was huge. It's the recollection you get from your peers, so it's a massive privilege to be thought of by the rest of the teams you've played against as the best-left winger in the league at the time.

"I loved that season. I really enjoyed myself. Gillingham was the perfect start for my career."

Becoming a Wanderer

After appearing for Gillingham in the Championship and League One, featuring 110 times and scoring 12 goals, Jarvis' hard work and impressive performances in the lower leagues was rewarded when Wolves took advantage of the winger not signing a new contract at Gillingham.

His story on how he switched Kent to the Black Country is an unheard one, but a very thrilling and entertaining one.

Explaining the story, Jarvis said: "I was actually going to a boys holiday, would you believe. I was going to the airport, and I got a call from my agent to say, 'Mick McCarthy's just called, he wants to meet you in Portugal.' I think it was a Friday, so he wanted to meet on Sunday in Portugal.

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"I was like, 'brilliant' but I had to say to my mates, 'Sorry, I can't come, I'm going to meet Mick McCarthy.'  

"As soon as I met him in Portugal, there was no other club I wanted to sign for. 

"He's such a great manager. Personally, he's probably the best manager I've worked with. He sat down, we had lunch and he said what he was looking for, what he wanted from me and then I had a few questions and that was probably it.

"As soon as I spoke to him, it was going to be signed, sealed and delivered. I went straight to Molineux, got shown around and pretty much signed straight away. 

"Then I flew out and met my mates. I got a lift from the club secretary and he was on the same flight with me, as we got to the airport, he went one way and I went the other."

The admiration of McCarthy by Jarvis was boasted by the winger, with the current Cardiff City boss a key influence on the success of his time in the West Midlands.

"He's a massive person. It's a huge club and that would sell it itself. He has such an aura about him and he's a big guy. He's got his ideas, he explained them to me and what he wanted from his left-winger. As soon as you hear from a manager that actually wants you, has an idea of how the club is going to go forward, there's no other platform to build on.

"I got injured in pre-season, which was just a disaster. When you sign at a new club you're desperate to impress and show everyone what you're about. It was a massive struggle, but again, the manager was brilliant. 

"He told me when he first signed for Celtic, he was injured for the first four months of his time there, so it was as if he was saying to me, 'I know exactly how you're feeling. I know you want to rush back and get yourself going, but just take your time, make sure you're right for when you get back.'

"As a new player, who is desperate to impress, it was nice to hear those words from the manager.

"Getting injured was ridiculously frustrating. I did a fair bit of pre-season, but that's where you integrate with your team-mates, you go on tour and spend a lot of time together; that's something that's important.

"So I managed to be involved in a lot of that, but I think I was out for eight weeks. It was a real disappointment, but I was more determined to impress when I came back."

Becoming a star at Molineux

His injury kept him out of the opening ten fixtures of the 2007/08 season, before replacing Jay Bothroyd in the 88th minute in the 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic in front of 24,058 supporters.

Although Jarvis was not in the squad for the 3-2 away win at Cardiff City four days later, he appeared in the next three fixtures against Ipswich, Bristol City and Southampton.

"I can remember just being delighted to make my debut. Just to get back on the pitch and show everyone what I was about. All the hard work I had done to get myself back fully fit and ready to go. I think that's my biggest memory, being delighted to be back onto the pitch."

In his debut season at Molineux, Jarvis only managed to find the net on a single occasion, a 1-1 draw with Leicester City in December.

However, his numbers were not a reflection on what was to follow in the later years, as Wolves missed out on the play-offs by goal difference on the final day of the season, despite beating Plymouth Argyle 1-0 and Watford failing to win in their final five games of the campaign.

"The experience of missing out on goal difference was huge for us. I think that first season really helped us in a way. Mick brought in a lot of players who had not played together. We were all sort of a similar age, and had not really played a great deal at that level.

"It was all experience for us, and by the end of that first season we knew we were all capable of playing exceptional football. And as a team, we were getting stronger and stronger."

In the summer of 2007, McCarthy improved his squad with the likes of Sam Vokes (AFC Bournemouth), Richard Stearman (Leicester), David Jones (Derby County), Chris Iwelumo (Charlton) and Jason Shackell (Norwich City).

"We added in the window. The transfers we brought in added experience, goals and depth to our squad. I remember in pre-season, Knights (Michael Knightly) said, 'We have such a great squad.' We had the mentality that we were going to do well that year.

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"We had a spell where didn't win towards the end of the season. Every single time we would lose or draw, you'd look and Reading, the team below us, would lose or draw. So we'd be like, 'oh we got away with one there,' and the following week would be the same.

"Once we got going again there was no way we was going to let it slip away."

Transitioning into a Premier League winger

Prior to the 2009/10 campaign, Wolves' first back in the top flight since 2004, Jarvis was about to embark on his first-ever season against Europe's best.

Cesc Fabregas, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Ledley King were all captains in the Premier League when Wolves returned to the big time, and Jarvis remains proud of his performances against the best.

"I think the biggest difference for me was, being a wide player in the Premier League you get more time on the ball to do something with, but it's harder to do something with. If that makes sense.

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"So in the Championship, you'd get less time on the ball but it's easier to do something. In the Premier League, they stand off a little more, you go to put a cross in and they get a little tighter. You go to take someone on and they have a little more pace. It's fine margins that you've got to adapt to.

"To be honest, I felt like I hit the ground running in the Premier League. I really enjoyed it. I played against some of the best full-backs in the world at the time and I just absolutely loved it. Testing myself against the best.

"I'm not going to say I'm the most confident person in the world, I'm not. I'm my biggest critic. If I think I've had a game where I'm not quite there, I wouldn't say I've had a good game when I didn't.

"You'd learn about positioning, where you'd need to be when you lose the ball. Defensively trying to run back with the defenders because the defenders were like wingers. Chasing Pablo Zabaleta, Ashley Cole and people like that. When you're trying to take them on, they're taking you on."

In 34 appearances in the top-flight, Jarvis was happy with his individual performances with three goals and six assists in the process of helping the club to safety, finishing 15th.

Three Lions call-up with Capello

Saturday March 19th, 2011. Wolves had just claimed their first victory at Villa Park for three decades courtesy of a sensational Jarvis volley.

The game against Aston Villa was the first straight game that Jarvis had contributed to a goal. 

The next day, Jarvis received the best news of his footballing career.

"I got a text message from my phone and I was just looking at it. It said from the FA and it said I had been called-up to the England squad. I was like, 'It can't be right, someone's having a wind up.'

"I remember getting a call from a number, and they were like, 'It's not a wind up, you have been called up to the England squad, it's going to be announced in 35 minutes. You'll need a passport.' 

"Meeting up, Fabio Capello was there and asked, 'Are was pleased to be here'? 

"I was like, 'this is ridiculous!' He said, 'Yeah, you were close, but that goal against Villa has got you in the England squad.'

"Capello is such a well-established manager. He's won everything. It was just great to be around. You had (John) Terry, (Wayne) Rooney, Cole, Lampard. Looking at the squad that was there, it was brilliant to be able to train with them and be around them.

"I played against all of them, but I had not really played with any of them, so I didn’t really know them on a personal level. You had to go in for dinner when everyone was ready and when everyone was finished, you left. It was a Capello thing that he brought in. It was brilliant. Training and just being around it. 

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"Obviously, I didn’t get on in the game against Wales, but it was just amazing to be part of that in the stadium; the crowd, the noise, the intensity. To make my debut at Wembley, in front of 85,000 fans, with all my friends and family there, it was just a dream come true."

Jarvis' debut came on a Tuesday night at Wembley against Ghana. Andy Carroll scored his first international goal in the first half, but the Three Lions were denied the victory when Asamoah Gyan's injury-time strike ended a highly entertaining contest.

80,102 supporters were inside Wembley back in 2011 as the winger replaced Arsenal's Jack Wilshere on the 69th-minute.

“I remember warming up constantly in the second half because I was just desperate to get on. You’re waiting for that look and call to be called back. I remember getting it and just sprinting back down the line.

"I just remember putting my shirt on, getting told bits and pieces about where I’m going to be on set-pieces and I remember just standing there and being like, “right, this is it. I’m going to make my England debut, it’s a dream come true. Relax, you know everyone's going to be watching you. You’re gonna have the camera on you, don’t look nervous, look composed.’ That was it.

"I remember Wilshire had just come off, high five and run on the pitch. I’ve done it. No one can take this away from me. I’ve played for my country, it’s absolutely incredible. Then as soon as you walk onto the pitch you’re sort of back to normality really.   

“I managed to get quite a lot of the ball. I did quite a few things, got a few crosses in. I really enjoyed it. It goes so quickly. I think I got about 25 minutes. I was pleased with my performance, but I was also just delighted to be out there and just enjoying the atmosphere.”   

Saying goodbye

Wolves were unfortunately relegated from the Premier League after a poor 2011/12 season, where they finished on 25 points, 12 points off safety in the top-flight.

In that season, was the horrid and unforgettable 5-1 home drubbing from local rivals, West Bromwich Albion. Discussing the derby defeat, Jarvis said: "It was horrendous, and obviously it cost Mick McCarthy his job. It wasn't a nice experience to be involved in.

"We started with 4-4-2, but it ended up in a 4-2-4. Then, very quickly, I seem to remember starting left-wing to then be holding midfielder by the end of the game. I felt like there was no-one was around.

"Really hard, horrible game to be involved in. Ultimately Mick lost his job."

Jarvis missed only one league game that season, scoring eight goals and assisting six times. For a winger a part of a relegated side, the numbers were impressive and helped attract interest from newly-promoted West Ham.

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"It was a really horrible time. I think in the last 13 games, I scored six goals. You sort of know, unfortunately, it's never going to be the same. That's a horrible thing, because I had spent five years at the club with the same group of players and staff.

"It was amazing. It's hard to drum it home to people, it was such a good spell; the team, the bonding, the club. Everything about it. The fans, the achievement, so to then be relegated at the end of it was hard.

"I felt like I had earned the right to play in the Premier League. I was flying personally, and I wanted to get back into the England squad. I felt the opportunity was too good for me to turn down.

"I don't have any regrets in the sense it was the right time for me. Obviously, it was never one of them I envisaged I want to leave Wolves, it was more I wanted to progress my career and continue playing at the highest level."

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