Matthew Tipton embracing Ards after ‘too many decisions for the wrong reasons’

An emboldened Matthew Tipton has emerged from the first failure of his managerial career with a football philosophy only reinforced by the experience.

By Patrick Van Dort
Friday, 11th February 2022, 7:50 pm

On Tuesday night he celebrated three points for just the third time in 166 days of this season’s Irish League campaign.

Tipton kicked off life as Ards boss with a Championship win over Loughgall just hours after first meeting his players and 16 days on from a Portadown exit.

The 3-2 success offered Tipton an immediate return off his rapid introduction to Ards - and first winning start of his managerial career for the former Warrenpoint Town and Ports boss.

Ards manager Matthew Tipton during his first game in charge of the Championship club. The victory on Tuesday over Loughgall marked a winning return to management following Tipton's exit from top-flight Portadown. Pic courtesy of Ards FC/Gareth McCluskey.

“It’s only been a short time between leaving Portadown and getting the Ards job but at no point did I feel any hatred of football or anything negative...in the game you must accept you are most likely to be leaving a club either to get a better job or if things don’t work as expected,” he said. “But it actually gave me a greater trust in my own core beliefs about football.

“After leaving Portadown I did go back over my old notes and talked things over with some people close to me.

“Over time at Portadown, for lots of factors, I started making too many decisions for the wrong reasons.

“I was steering things in a certain direction to try and keep control over everything but now realise it was more a reaction to things not working.

“It’s not in my nature to send a team out to be more defensive and adopt a counter-attacking style rather than play on the front foot,

“In a bid to try and manage everything I think, at times, I would overload the players with information.

“And it got to a point I was putting more focus on trying to fix the areas they struggled in than simply allow them to play to their strengths.

“It doesn’t happen over one day when everything suddenly turns, it’s a response to players losing confidence and gradually you try to micro-manage.

“It left me resolute to make sure I wouldn’t fall into that way of thinking again and to stick to my beliefs - for better or worse - and what I know has worked well in the past.

“I’m realistic enough to understand it all comes down to players ultimately in football - it’s an imperfect sport and you can have ideas but nothing can ever be controlled completely.

“I’ve been successful in the past with the combination of what I want to do and the ability to do it with players better than most at that level.

“It’s a difficult position because if I’m successful again at this level and go back up to the Premiership it’s going to be a similar scenario than with Portadown.

“You are attempting to be competitive and make an impact with players of a standard below most of the squads operating with greater depth and resources.

“One or two clubs may be able to break through that barrier but the Irish League is stronger than ever and you have established managers and squads operating at a certain standard without being able to move to that next level.

“Because of the difficulties in making progress to the top, it could actually be a case of having to go back to England down the line to push forward in my career as I’ve still lots of contacts and turned down offers in the past.

“But that’s all the way in the future and will come down to lots of elements...right now it’s about putting my immediate focus on Ards and what we can achieve together over the rest of this season.”

Tipton has enjoyed the quick return to life in management - with Tuesday’s game arriving the day after a first squad meeting following Sunday’s appointment.

“I set up a questionnaire for the players to quickly get some background - just some quick details around any injuries, what they felt were strengths and weaknesses and info on family life etc,” said Tipton. “The club have also been great as well by immediately providing a breakdown of minutes played and various statistics to date for everyone.

“That all helps kick everything off in the right way.

“There’s no transfer window between now and the end of the season so I know I’ve an established group of players to work with for the next few months and can concentrate on trying to improve players.

“I’m not a manager who ever felt the transfer market was a solution to problems, instead I always believed it came down to time on the training ground.

“In particular, with the changing financial landscape and issues around Covid, the summer and winter transfer markets have been especially difficult to find quality for value within all the restrictions.

“It felt like a clean start at Ards and this is my career so the chance to get back into management quite quickly at a club with a squad I felt I could get playing the way I want and with a good set-up all made it appealing.

“I realised towards the end at Portadown I was snapping at times with my family and it’s been great this week walking into Ards and just dealing with coaching players and being a manager.

“When I look at the squad and talk to people at the club it’s certainly a group with a play-off as a target.

“So few points separate so many of the teams and in this division any team can beat anyone else on a given day...so there will be points won and lost by lots of clubs over the rest of the season.”

That Portadown departure signalled the end of an era heralded with his 2018 appointment as a platform to rebuild the four-time top-flight title winners still suffering from past problems on and off the field.

In contrast to the long-term planning Tipton embraced at Shamrock Park, his arrival at Ards has a narrow focus on short-term gains over the final few months of the current campaign.

“Certainly I leave Portadown proud of a lot of areas...not least getting the club back up to senior football and finishing ninth last season,” he said. “One of the key attractions at Portadown was the chance to build something on a long-term basis.

“One of the jobs I was asked to do - and one of the factors I really wanted to take on - was to work on the youth pathway and improve the production of players at the club.

“I’m proud of so much of what I achieved at Portadown and do feel the club is in a better position than when I arrived in a lot of areas.

“The youth aspect was something which needed time and commitment to really start to produce results.

“It was all part of the bigger commitment I took on at Portadown from day one and certainly something I wanted to embrace when I joined, it’s in my nature to accept responsibility for multiple areas.

“So I’m not using these as excuses for why it didn’t work out as planned at Portadown...but it’s a lesson for the future as how I was ultimately spending more and more time dealing with lots of issues away from the football pitch.

“I am confident I always acted with professionalism.

“Last season after our promotion up to the Premiership we could work with the players maybe four times a week around games because of furlough from day jobs.

“That allowed us to focus so much more than normal on our preparations and to coach individuals, who improved thanks to that extra time.

“I think one of my strengths as a manager is relating to players and building personal relationships with them...it’s something I believe is important.

“And it works - I’ve met players down the line I maybe had to move on from a club or not pick for various reasons but I always try to be honest and explain why.

“And, that way, I’m still able to have a working relationship with them because we both are clear on why anything happened.

“But the downside to that can be taking on so many problems across the board.

“I found I was dealing with everything and anything...from admin to communicating with various groups around the club or helping organise youth team trips, plus players’ personal problems that impacted on training or match days, even small things like making sure guys had oil or shopping sorted for the house.

“I’ve dropped so many different WhatsApp groups and stripped back my focus to just coaching and managing.”