Graduation 18.04.24

The Salford graduate supporting our future Lionesses

Matt Cuthbert always knew he wanted to work in sport. We caught up with him as he graduates this week with his PhD after an amazing nine years at the University of Salford to hear more about his role, including his work with the England Women's national football teams.

“I was drawn to the course at Salford because it is a sport science degree with the option to go down a strength and conditioning pathway. This allows you to get a good base knowledge whilst also getting that specialism. Paired with the profiles of the staff on the course, who are world leading experts in the research that they conduct, it seemed like the perfect fit,” Matt explained.

“The biggest challenge at times has been balancing the need to get practical experience alongside your academic studies. Within our industry it is crucial that you get experience of coaching, but you’ve got to also put the time and effort in to make the most of your studies. Overcoming this was purely based on being disciplined and protecting time to do the academic work.”

Matt graduated from his first degree in 2017 and commenced his MSc in Strength and Conditioning while working part-time with the under 16 and under 18 teams at Bury Football Club. 

“My first paid opportunity came working with the academy squad at Bury Football Club. This gave me some really good insight into how an academy runs. I learned so much and definitely made a number of mistakes in my time there! But it stood me in good stead when I went to interview for my role at the Football Association (FA), as I had that experience of working in youth football. Since then, I have worked within the youth pathway for the England Women's national teams, as well as providing occasional support to the senior Lionesses.

“The difference between working with an academy squad and a national team is that you see the players in the academy more or less every day across the season. With international players we only see them for 7-10 days at a time and depending on the age group this may only be 4-8 times a season, which means it’s a completely different challenge! At the international level, we don't have time to create any long-term changes in the athletes, but we develop strategies to allow the players to perform in a large number of games across a tournament with very quick turnarounds between those fixtures.”

In July of 2018, Matt presented some of his research at the National Strength and Conditioning Association National Conference in Indianapolis. Matt commenced his industry funded PhD (Supervised by Prof. Paul Comfort and Dr John McMahon and funded by the FA) in September 2018. 

“I am University of Salford through and through – I’ve gone straight through from an undergraduate to now completing my PhD, whilst completing a master's degree in between the two. The most enjoyable thing has been building relationships with the exceptional researchers and practitioners who either work at the University or have studied alongside myself.

“In the nine years that I’ve been at Salford, I’ve become much more self-assured and confident in my ability, and knowledge. I now have practitioners in the industry contacting me to ask for my advice, opinions and knowledge based around my masters and PhD topics, as well as my practical experience, which still gives me a bit of imposter syndrome now and again as I consider myself to still be very early in my career! But I have definitely become more confident in my responses in those types of conversations.

“I now work full-time at the FA as a physical performance coach. I was offered the full-time role about six months prior to the completion of my PhD. My plan is to keep supporting the Women's Pathway at England, developing future Lionesses for continued success following last summer's European Championship win.”