Matt Rhead is currently the longest-serving member of the Imps squad, and perhaps one of the most popular too.
The big man, as he’s affectionately known, has been fighting for the cause for four seasons now and is widely regarded as something of a club legend. Who else can boast almost 200 appearances, 50 goals and three pieces of silverware during his Imps career?
As well as being a handful on the field, he’s a likeable and down to earth character off it. Whenever I have the chance to catch up with him it’s easy to forget you are talking to a professional footballer. Perhaps it’s the fact he was doing work as a shift manager until the age of 27, maybe it’s because he’s been a season ticket holder at Stoke City, but of all the players in the current squad he’s one of the most relatable.
He’s also incredibly dry and he put his charm to good use when I attempted to get to the bottom of a mystery that developed last week. Ben and I attended the training ground to do the podcast and in the course of doing so, uncovered an overhead locker that had a hair dryer in it.
Rheady might not need one himself, but he’s pretty sure he knows who is harbouring a need for a quick dry after training.
“A hairdryer? If I could say anyone I’d say Josh Vickers. He’s got a big beard hasn’t he, his hair is all nice and combed as well. That’s what football is all about now isn’t it? These young players, they want to look good. Petty likes to have use of a hairdryer as well; it could be any one of them!”
Aside from the jokes, the Imps squad are clearly very tight and that close-knit togetherness is one of the contributing factors in our title success. I asked Rheady who he felt the Player of the Year was, putting him right on the spot. To be fair, it took some deliberation but he didn’t just sit on the fence.
“The whole squad have done well this year, it’s hard to pick any one out. Defensively though, we’ve been solid and I think that’s a big part of our success. Eards has chipped in with goals too, he’s been a big figure for us, but if pushed I’d have to go for Jason Shackell. He’s been superb and a class above. He’s playing a league or two below where he should, be we don’t mind as we love having him here and will have again next season.”
“You can see why he’s played at Premier League and Championship level throughout his career, he’s different class on and off the field.”
Perhaps more challenging was when I posed the question which opposition player did he admire most.
“That’s a great question! I like the kid at Forest Green who scored against us at Sincil Bank, Reece Brown. I know we won the game 2-1, but I thought he was perhaps the best player on the park that day. Tyler Walker has done well at Mansfield as well, but he’s not had the best of times against us! We’ve done well and kept him quiet.”
I was chatting to him as part of the final interview for the club programme this season and you can read his thoughts on his new deal, the title success, having an effort cleared off the line against Tranmere and his plan for life after football by buying it this weekend.
If you don’t usually buy a programme, make sure you buy this one. After all, it’s going to be a souvenir you’ll keep for years to come.