Humility, hunger and well-honed technique, writes James Shield.
Three qualities which, according to Kevin Blackwell, have helped Matthew Lowton establish himself at the highest level of the domestic game.
“Matty is the type of lad who the other players in a dressing room want to see do well,” the former Sheffield United manager, who four years ago handed Lowton his professional debut, told The Star last night. “He doesn’t strut around like he’s the ‘Big I am’ or give the impression that he’s better than anyone else and that, in my opinion, is one of the reasons he’s done so well.
“His colleagues go that extra mile for him. Watch his back and make sure no one stitches him up.”
Tomorrow, when United visit Aston Villa in the third round of the FA Cup, Lowton will lock horns with his former club for the first time since completing a £3m transfer to the Midlands in July 2012.
Aged 24, the full-back has subsequently become a regular member of Paul Lambert’s starting eleven. A far cry from the days when, as Blackwell explained, some observers claimed he lacked the mental and physical strength to earn a living from the game.
“It doesn’t surprise me to see how well Matty has done,” Blackwell, who spent 30 months in charge at United, said. “But, at one stage, there was a real danger that he would become lost to football forever which, as we’ve seen now, would have been a massive waste and shame.
“He wasn’t the biggest by any means. And that probably held him back a bit at the start.
“But very early on, you couldn’t fail to be impressed by his reading of a match and how the action would unfold. In fact, he reminded me of Dennis Irwin because he already had one hell of a shot and, despite not having electric pace, even then knew exactly when and where to arrive in the box.
“Technically, there were never any question marks about him.”
Lowton made his first of 89 appearances for United against Cardiff City towards the end of the 2009/10 campaign. Having previously enjoyed a brief spell on loan with Hungarian giants Ferencvaros, who then boasted strong links with Bramall Lane, the Chesterfield-born defender truly blossomed the following season which, despite ending in relegation, also marked the emergence of youngsters such as Harry Maguire and George Long. Both are expected to feature in United’s team at Villa Park.
“When you are dealing with young players, which Matty was at the time, you’ve got to ask yourself what they will be capable of in five years time,” Blackwell, who parted company with United in 2010, continued. “That why, very early on, we decided to give him a go despite others telling us not too.
“Going to Hungary really helped Matty. When he came back, you could see the change in him.
“To begin with, I don’t think Matty really thought he was the equal of other players around him but, when we put him in the team just before the end of the season, that changed his approach. He knew then that he had a first team game in him and the rest, as they say, is history.”