Matthew Lowton – From Ferencvaros to the Premier League

 

The Aston Villa full back has had a great debut season in the Premier League after moving to the Birmingham club from Sheffield United last summer, but there’s little known about his time at Ferencvaros in Hungary. Tomasz Mortimer investigates

Matthew Lowton has been a regular in the Rumourville recently. Links to Arsenal and Liverpool have made the 23 year old right-back one of the most sort after players in the Premier after performing consistently well this season in a struggling Aston Villa side.

The former Sheffield United man has also been tipped as a potential England international, and with the right-back spot being relatively open for the Three Lions, a call-up to the national side would not come as a surprise.

He was instrumental in the Villain’s survival, with his barn-storming forward runs and solid defending, and his stunning volley against Stoke has been quoted by some, as the “the goal that turned Villa’s season around.”

But the unusual thing about Lowton is that just three and a half years ago, he was playing his football for Hungary’s biggest club, Ferencváros.

Lowton was never touted as a potential Premier League defender, in fact, in 2008, he was on loan in the 10th tier of English football for the “World’s oldest club”, Sheffield FC.

That was just a year before his loan move to Sheffield United’s previous sister club, Ferencváros.

Fradi at the time were languishing in Hungary’s second division after being demoted for financial problems, but they were taken over by former Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe in February 2008, who saw potential in a club who were once a major force in European football.

Yes, Fradi had fallen on hard times but McCabe’s deal was somewhat of a coup, especially seeing as the club have won no fewer than 28 Hungarian titles and 20 domestic cups, as well as finishing runner-up in the 1975 European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Former Guiseley boss Bobby Davison was appointed head coach of the NBII club and he soon brought in former Everton, Blackburn and Sheffield United defender Craig Short as his assistant. Former Sheffield United striker Paul Shaw led the line in attack, while the side was peppered with several on-loan United academy players such as James Ashmore, Jordan Robertson, Sam Wedgbury, Liban Abdi and of course, Matthew Lowton.

Lowton arrived at Ferencváros in early 2009, and was a fans favourite in Hungary, but his time at the Florian Albert Stadion wasn’t always plain sailing.

The full-back spent almost a year in Budapest, and was an instrumental part of the side who were promoted back to the top tier with a record points haul. But off the field, Lowton struggled to adapt to the Hungarian way of life, and his frustrations at times, seemed to transfer onto the pitch.

However, it was clear that Lowton was one of the most talented of the English boys coming through, as Peti from the Ferencváros fan site www.Ulloi129.info said, “My memories of Lowton are that he had some hard-times at Fradi, and as we were the biggest club in the league by quite a margin, our players were targeted more with strong challenges, which was unnecessary. This is where you could see the frustration from Lowton who was young and hot-headed. But apart from that, he was a reliable defender, and I can’t seem to remember many, if any errors he made while at the club. He was certainly better than the average loanee e.g. Sam Wedgbury.”

The frustration from Lowton is ordinary of one so young, as the Chesterfield born defender was only 19 when he joined Ferencváros. The expectation on his shoulders at the time must have been massive. To give context, it was similar to that of Manchester United playing in the Championship, and the Fradi fans aren’t the most forgiving at the best of times so Lowton really had to prove his worth at the country’s biggest club, who were still attracting crowds of 7,000 in NBII (crowds average at 5,000 across the league in NBI).

But Lowton did have his critics at Ferencváros, there’s no doubt about that. After Fradi’s successful promotion back into NBI, an article in Hungary’s leading newspaper, Nemzeti Sport said this on Lowton, “Matthew Lowton and Samuel Wedgbury have been given a contract to keep them at the club for Fradi’s return to NBI. They are ill-disciplined, yes they can run, but their skills do not match that of Hungary’s top tier.”

It’s astonishing to read, really, and if you were to ask a Fradi fan if Lowton would be one of England’s most exciting young defenders if four years time, they would have probably laughed you out of town.

But after a slow start to start to his career, he’s really starting to blossom into something special. His manager at Aston Villa Paul Lambert has recently tipped him as a future England star, and the Scot said, “If Matt Lowton keeps going the way he is then his career will take care of itself.”

It certainly will, but the former Fradi man will never forget his footballing education in Hungary, and recently said that he had no fear going to Old Trafford thanks to his time in Budapest.

“The Ferencvaros fans are one crazy set of supporters. I remember playing in a game which was called off because we were losing 3-1 and the fans set the stand on fire! It was unbelievable. The referee took us off and the club was fined and ordered to play three games behind closed doors. It was all part of the learning experience for me,” he told The Sun.

“I was a late developer and getting the chance to play in Hungary was a welcome bonus as I didn’t really start playing first-team football with Sheffield United until I was 20.”

Lowton played eighteen league games at Fradi, before moving back to England in November 2009 after “family issues”, to the disappointment of the Fradi faithful. Nontheless, Lowton will always be seen as one of the vital cogs of the English invasion that helped the Zöld Sasok return to NBI.