The Millwall reject who has won his country's backing

Matt Jarvis's work ethic saw him overcome failure and reach the England squad. Sam Wallace speaks to those behind his rise

When Matt Jarvis walks out to train with Fabio Capello's England squad for the first time today it will be another step in the long journey he has taken in football from rejection at Millwall and relegation with Gillingham to League One, to the elite of the English game alongside Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard.

There are some players in the England squad, fast-tracked from Premier League academies, who have never played outside the top flight, and then there are a few, such as Jarvis, who turns 25 in May, who have had to do it the hard way. The pitches at Arsenal's training ground this morning will seem a long way from his two seasons in League One, playing at the likes of Brentford, Rotherham and Yeovil Town.

He was part of the Gillingham team relegated from the Championship in 2005 on goal difference and it would be another two seasons until Wolverhampton Wanderers, then in the Championship, signed him for £600,000. A late developer might best describe Jarvis' progress from League One to England team in the space of less than four years, but those close to him say it has nothing to do with luck.

A schoolboy sporting all-rounder who was at one point the reigning Surrey champion in the 50m and 100m breaststroke as well as – on the track – the 1500m, he also managed one A, four Bs and five C grades at GCSE. "Matthew is very, very determined," his father Nick said yesterday. "He has known what he has wanted since the age of eight. As for his schoolwork, he did a lot of it in the car on the way to matches or races."

Now in his second season as a Premier League footballer with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Jarvis' untypical career path began when he was released at the age of 16 by Millwall who had also rejected his brother Ben, three years older. It is a point in many young footballers' careers when they can drift out of the game.

"It was a difficult time for Matthew and we wondered what to do," Nick told The Independent. "We didn't get a lot of help because once you get rejected by a club they don't really take any further interest in you. Eventually one of the Millwall coaches spoke to Gillingham about Matthew and he went there to train.

"They looked at him and offered him a place on the youth training scheme and as soon as he signed he was really flying. When he was 17 they gave him a professional contract. Matthew had realised that he didn't want to miss out on being a footballer. Ever since then he has tried his hardest to be as good as he can possibly be. His brother had three operations in his knee and had to pack it in. That had an effect on Matthew."

At Gillingham, Jarvis came under the guidance of player-manager Andy Hessenthaler, then in his first stint in charge of the club. Hessenthaler, who rejoined Gillingham as manager last summer, said that as soon as Jarvis arrived he was identified by the youth team coach Darren Hare as a player who had the potential to go a long way.

"He always had that pace to get behind the full-back," Hessenthaler told The Independent yesterday. "Now he has the quality to cross a very good ball in as well. That was what was missing in the early days. That is all about growing up and progressing. He is a top lad and what has happened to him won't faze him. He won't change as a person. He has a lovely family who come to watch him everywhere.

"With the England players, nine times out of 10 they have come through a Premier League academy and been given a pro contract. Look at Jack Wilshere – he has come through that system. Matt has come through at a lower level but any player in those divisions looking at his career can see that it can be done if you work hard enough."

It would be more than three years after his debut as a 17-year-old for Gillingham against Sunderland in November 2003 that Jarvis's chairman Paul Scally would predict that the winger would play for England before the age of 24. Scally's prediction is looking, give or take 12 months, remarkably accurate.

Jarvis's father Nick says much of the credit should go to Hessenthaler and youth team coach Kevin Bremner for Matt's development into a player who has thrived against some of the best teams in the Premier League this season. Operating on the left wing despite being right-footed, he played a key role in the defeat of Manchester United in February. His goal against Aston Villa on Saturday showed a new aspect to his game.

Jarvis comes from a sporting family – his parents Nick and Linda were England international table tennis players who were both No 1 in their respective national rankings for a period in the 1970s. Nick, 57, was part of the English team that won a silver medal at the European championships in 1978. Three years earlier Linda had won the European doubles title with partner Jill Parker.

Nick is about to take up a new role as the national junior coach for the English table tennis association and, having travelled to the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, will be in Derby the following day to watch a table tennis tournament. His son may not have followed him into the sport but Jarvis junior will certainly pose a threat to the amateur table tennis enthusiasts among the England squad, providing they can find a table to play him on.

"The money in table tennis is nowhere near what it is in football but then the dedication required to succeed in any sport is very high," Nick said. "In an individual sport like table tennis you have to put the hours in. In football you cannot practise on your own for six hours but you have to be committed.

"I would say that Matthew's ability hasn't been the main thing in his success, it has been his determination and commitment. Now that he has worked hard and has more confidence his natural ability is shining through. He has trained so hard over the years and believes in what he can do. He might not have got there as quickly as some players who were superstars at 19, 20, but now he is getting the rewards."

Jarvis' Wolves manager Mick McCarthy said his winger would be a "breath of fresh air" when he joins up with the England squad, the first current Wolves player to do so for more than 21 years ago since Steve Bull's last international cap against Poland at Wembley in October 1990. "To be called up by England shows how much he has improved," McCarthy said. "He is a threat, whoever he plays against."

Having followed his former player's career closely, Hessenthaler said that Jarvis's most effective use of his blistering pace is his habit of slowing down and then speeding up again to shake off the full-back. "He has that desire to make something happen on the pitch and affect the game," Hessenthaler said. "I am over the moon for him but I am not surprised at what he has achieved in the game. He has the talent and he works hard."

As for Jarvis, he said yesterday that he would not be taking anything for granted. "I've just got to concentrate on doing as well as I can in training and seeing if I can impress to get some time on the pitch," he said. It is another step up for him in a career that has had many, but given his track record thus far you would not bet against him making a success of it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea