Bradford City AFC is mourning the loss of academy manager Neil Matthews, who has passed away aged 56, following a battle with cancer.
A former player and coach, Neil arrived at City as academy head of coaching in 2017, following two separate spells with Huddersfield Town’s junior setup.
As the club’s academy manager, his leadership saw 15 players agree professional contracts with the Bantams, the transfers of several rising stars to Premier League sides and numerous positive structural enhancements to the club’s footballing operation.
His professional playing career began with Grimsby Town in 1984, before notable stints with Halifax Town, Stockport County and Lincoln City. A forward, Matthews scored 68 goals in 258 appearances before retiring in 2001.
City’s chief executive officer, Ryan Sparks, said: “We are absolutely heartbroken by Neil’s passing.
“Neil was a special person, who took immense pride in his work. He was one of the most selfless people I have ever met, who often put the football club and his colleagues before anything and anyone else. It was an honour to know Neil and a privilege to work alongside him.
“He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him and worked with him. He was one of a kind, and his passing leaves a huge hole in the Bradford City family.
“The passion, care and dedication he brought to his work and our football club was truly remarkable.
“Neil has overseen the production and development of some of the best academy players in the country, and has played a massive role in enhancing the club in recent years. He built an academy like no other in English football, and his legacy will live on through the many careers he helped start.
“His spirit will be with us in the play-off fixtures, and I hope you can join us on Sunday as we remember a great man. It goes without saying that yesterday’s result, which saw us finish in the play-offs for the first time in six years, was for Neil.
“My thoughts are with Neil’s wife, Sue, and his loved ones at this difficult time. We will support them every step of the way.”
Plans are underway to honour the life of Neil Matthews within the club’s academy, with the 2023/24 Academy Player of the Year award to be named after him. A minute’s applause will be held at the University of Bradford Stadium ahead of City’s Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg against Carlisle United on Sunday, with City's players and coaching staff wearing black armbands throughout the game, in Neil's memory.
The thoughts of all at Bradford City AFC are with Neil’s family and friends at this devastating time. May he rest in peace.