First In & Last Out The Dressing Room


MH1

Often the first in the dressing room and the last out, the ‘kit man’ is a key part of clubs at all levels of the football pyramid. An important key in the cog they ensure that the coaching staff and players can concentrate on the vital task of training, preparing and playing without worry of the ‘small’ things. By no means can the job be deemed as ‘small’ as I found out when I caught up with Matt Hayward, Brighton & Hove Albion Kit Room Assistant for the 1st Team.

Matt had a professional playing contract with Torquay United competing in the Blue Square Premier when he was 18. Unfortunately a groin injury curtailed his pro career and after appearing for Weymouth and Eastbourne Borough he hung up his boots and entered a career in retail. Football is like a drug, addictive as we all know, so he wanted to stay in and around the beautiful game which led him to BHAFC.

Firstly Matt worked in the club shop for the Seagulls situated at the American Express Community Stadium. A role then became available as ‘Kit Man’ for the Women’s First Team which he undertook, assisting at training sessions as BBC (Balls, Bibs, Cones) and on match days. From experience I can confirm that when I arrived on match day everything would be covered by Matt; shirts hung in order, drinks available, cones and balls ready for the warm-up. A professional atmosphere was immediately created and this in turn would rub off on the players when they arrived.

When an opportunity to work with the men’s side arose he stepped in to join the Kit Room team at the Amex. Two kit men are with the 1st Team, another two with the Academy and one works in the laundry. I asked Matt about a typical day in the life to get an insight of this often misunderstood role.

 

Normally I’m up at 06:00 to get to the Amex for 07:00 where the main kit room is situated. All the training kit is then put into a ‘skip’ and ferried to the training ground. Once there everything is laid out in their specific spots in the changing rooms; everything is numbered’

‘In addition to training kit there are also players trainers for the gym, flip flops for showers and obviously their boots. With regards to boots, and with most players owning more than one pair, we have to make a judgement on what ones they will wear based on the conditions. We ensure that everything is ready so they can be best prepared for the session. Once training is finished we ensure all equipment is collected and after lunch head back to the Amex with kit en-tow for it all to be laundered’

 

The job is not for those who love a social life; sometimes Matt can work up to 70 hours in a week if the fixtures aren’t too kind. You need to have an array of social skills though as you are working within an environment which can be intense, especially the changing room on a match day.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 20.53.20

 

‘For home games we normally prepare the majority of the dressing room at the Amex the night before. For a 15:00 kick off I’ll arrive approx. 09:00 to make sure everything is ready. Certain players have certain quirks such as a particular pre-match drink, whereas others may want a personal message added to their undershirt in case they score!’

‘After the warm-up all equipment has to be collected along with training wear which goes straight to the laundry when the game kicks off. At half time I may assist the subs with a warm-up and post-match the dressing room has to be cleared as efficiently as possible so the players can shower and perform a cool down if need be’

‘Away games, depending on location, normally entail an early start from the Amex with a checklist that all medical equipment, kit and drinks are packed ready for the journey’

 

As you have read from Matt’s description the role of Kit Man cannot be defined as glamorous. However, having full access to the inner sanctum of a professional club does have its highlights.

 

‘The best thing about the job? The players do not see us as footballers. As much as we look after them they also look after us too. Also we feel part of the dressing room; most fans would love to be in there and we are every single day’

 

And the worst?

 

‘Anything can get thrown at you and you have to react quick; whether it be a change of location for training or a missing piece of kit it has to be dealt with immediately!’

 

It has been said on more than one occasion that Kit Man is one of the best roles at a football club; in such close proximity to the players and coaches, access all areas and no pressure from the fans when results aren’t going their way.

There will always be ‘Kit Room Assistants’ like Matt at clubs throughout the world, anyone who has been lucky enough to work with them at their club knows their importance too.

 

Interview by Chris Stygal

 

 

 

Leave a Reply