Matthew Towns has had a rollercoaster of a ride during the last 12 months.
The goalkeeper talks exclusively to ElWriteBack about his journey in football and his battle with Cancer.
In June 2011 Macclesfield Town players were dreading the start of a cold English pre-season. However, for former second string goalkeeper, Matthew Towns things were much different.
The former Silkman, joined Maltese Giants Floriana in January 2011 after spells with Presttyn Town and Droylden.
Towns achieved success almost instantly after winning the Maltese FA Trophy in a 1-0 victory over Valletta.
After just seven months in Malta, Towns swapped Floriana for rivals Valletta. The goalkeeper achieved success for a second time in the 2011/12 season when the Lilywhites won the Maltese Premier League.
The English born goalkeeper joined his third Maltese side in 2012 when he signed for St. Andrew FC. Towns spent two years at the club before moving to Icelandic side Knattspyrnufelagid Aegir.
Towns returned to Malta a few months later when he signed for San Gwann FC.
At the start of the 2015/16 season, Towns started with Hibernians as a player/coach. After not getting much playing time, the former Macclesfield goalkeeper decided to move back to San Gwann in January whilst remaining a coach with Hibs.
With five games remaining in the season, Towns received news that nobody wants to hear. The 33-year-old was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer.
Consequently, the thought of never being able to play again, Towns set out to conquer the disease and win his battle with Cancer.
Towns has won every prize in Maltese football which he has entered as a player or coach apart from the First Division.
The goalkeeper said, “I’m hungry for more, but keeping South Adelaide Panthers in the Premier League would be a huge achievement on that list. Especially after recent events.”
ElWriteBack speaks exclusively to the goalkeeper as they team up to raise awareness of Cancer.
In June you travelled to Australia to play for South Adelaide Panthers. How have you found your time with the Panthers?
My time has been good so far. It’s a fresh new challenge and everyone at the club has welcomed me and taken me in very well. There is very much a family feel at the club, where players and fans mix.
I have also done a bit of work coaching the younger age groups which helps you to get involved and give a bit back to the club. But I’ve been able work and train hard daily; The Chairman, Committee and coaching staff have been brilliant.
I had a bit of a baptism of fire during the first game where we suffered a heavy defeat against a very well organised side, but we managed to bounce back in the second game and to be honest we played ten times better and got the win we deserved.
You joined the side during a relegation battle. How did you find this pressure whilst playing in a new country?
To be honest I thrive on the pressure of situations like this, I think if I am in a situation where the club are chasing titles or have a target to achieve it keeps me focused and makes me want to work even harder, and it’s part of the job.
It was a very similar situation when I returned to San Gwann FC in January. We missed out on escaping relegation by one point against all odds. Unfortunately, I had to miss the last three games through injury/illness which really hit me hard when the club were relegated, as I felt I had not managed to complete the job I was bought in to do. But the pressure to achieve targets is the same no matter what country you play in.
You recently came back from a serious illness, to continue playing a high level of football, which is a huge achievement. Do you wish to explain your personal story?
Yeah, it’s been a bit of a strange and difficult time. I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer 17 weeks ago. I had five games of the season left for San Gwann and had to undergo surgery in April (14 weeks ago), which meant I missed out on three vital games for the club and I’m sure a number of people thought I might not play again. But I was very lucky that we managed catch things at a stage which has meant that I could recover, and anyone who knows me, knows that something like this won’t hold me back. If anything, it has driven me on to continue playing and prove that there is still many more seasons left in me as a player as well as a coach.
I was very lucky to be diagnosed, as me and my partner had been trying for a family and I had just been sent for a routine exploratory scan which showed a tumour which needed immediate surgery. Obviously my first question was ‘when will I be back playing again?’ whereas my girlfriend Schevon was more concerned with ‘what would have happened had we not detected it’ – Unfortunately the answer we got to that wasn’t great. But I was very lucky to be in good hands and treated superbly.
I was told that five weeks after surgery I could start to get off the sofa and move around, but I was back in the gym after three weeks with the aim to get back playing as soon as possible.
Now it’s a case of regular check ups and looking after myself. I had my first check up before I came to Australia where the the doctors were very happy with my progress, and it’s just a case of keeping an eye on things and being careful with my lifestyle (which is only going to help my playing career) but all is normal and I am assured all is fine for the future.
I can’t thank the people who have supported me through all this enough; family, friends, teammates and staff of both Hibernians FC and San Gwann FC and most of all my girlfriend Schevon who has supported me through everything.
What are you plans for the rest of the year when your time in Australia comes to an end?
After the season in Australia I will be coming home to Malta and my focus is playing and coaching. I have mutually terminated my coaching contract with Hibernians FC, which was handled fantastically by the committee of the club, and I thank them for everything and hope that one day I will be there again. That means that I am a free player and coach. I have had some contact with a number of clubs but I think that my immediate future will be as Player/GK Coach role with a club.
I have also started a sports equipment supply business specialising in bringing top brands to Malta, which is something that the last 12 months has made me focus on.
I feel it’s important that in the modern game I have something else to focus on as well. My aim is to provide a service that nobody else can and give keepers of all ages and levels of the game the best tools in the industry.
How would you compare to the style of football in Australia to that of what you have experience in Malta?
The style of football in Australia is very similar to that of Iceland, more than Malta. It’s a fast physical game with a number of technical players playing. I would say certainly Maltese Premier League standard if not slightly better. But when people ask me to compare levels of football I think it is difficult, until teams are fielded against each other, as you can only compete week in week out against who you come up against.
Matthew Towns on keeping healthy and regularly checking yourself: I think it’s just a case of knowing your own body. It’s important that if you feel something not normal then to make sure you get it checked out and don’t be afraid.
Visit Cancer Research for more information via: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org
Matthew Towns Maltese Football Honours: FA Trophy (Floriana), Premier League and Super Cup (Valletta), 2nd Division (San Gwann), Super Cup and Presidents Cup (Hibernians).