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They Played For Both Clubs: Matt Mills

Chris takes a glance back at the career of Matt Mills

Hands up, baby, hands up, gimme your heart, gimme, gimme your heart
Hands up, baby, hands up, gimme your heart, gimme, gimme your heart
Chris Brunskill

The subject of this weekend's They Played for Both Clubs was hotly debated. I put a call out on twitter (@19manning83 - I only follow back on special occasions) after doing my own cursory amount of research and was pleasantly surprised with the volume of responses. They ranged from the modern - Matt Mills and Liam Feeney, to the classic era - proper Robbie Savage and Trevor Morgan, and even to the extremely tenuous - Gerry Payton, who played 202 times for Bournemouth and just the once for Bolton Wanderers.

I decided to stick with what I know, and went for the modern era. The likes of Savage and Morgan deserve their place in history, but their time was ever so slightly before my own, and rather than just copy from Wikipedia I thought I'd find a relatable subject for a wider audience:

Ladies and gentlemen, Matthew Claude Mills.

Born in Leicester in July 1986, Matt Mills comes from sporting stock, his brother Joseph also being a professional footballer currently plying his trade on loan at Oldham Athletic having taken in spells at Southampton, Doncaster Rovers and Reading before moving to Burnley in the summer of 2003 following a successful loan spell.

Matt Mills turned professional in 2003 at Southampton, having come through their youth ranks following a highly successful early career in youth football, representing England at stages including eight caps at Under 19 level. He made just four appearances for the Saints under Scottish manager Gordon Strachan and then Harry Redknapp, taking in loan spells at Coventry City in 2004 and then to Dean Court and Bournemouth in 2005.

Manager Sean O'Driscoll took Mills and thrust him straight into the action. He would go on to make 12 appearances in total, scoring three goals. Unfortunately for Mills and for Bournemouth injury would curtail his time on the South Coast and force him to return to his parent club. Following his return to fitness, Mills was signed by Manchester City, though would only make two appearances before being sent out on loan again, this time to Colchester United.

He made just nine appearances for Colchester before Manchester City decided he would be better served by reuniting with Sean O'Driscoll at Doncaster Rovers where he would spend the remainder of the 2007/8 and the entire 2008/9 season on loan. It was in 2007/8 that Mills was a key member of the starting eleven which won promotion to the Championship, beating Leeds United at Wembley in the League One play-off Final in May 2008. He made 37 appearances, scoring three times over his 18 months at Doncaster before becoming their record signing in July 2008 at £300,000.

He would go on to captain the side, making 41 appearances in the Championship, and attracting the interest of a number of bigger clubs including Birmingham City and Newcastle United. Nottingham Forest put in an offer of £2m, though a £2.5m offer from Reading was later accepted and Mills left Doncaster in August 2009 to link up with manager Brendan Rodgers.

However, it was at Reading where Mills would begin to have problems. At the end of his debut season he was caught on camera making gestures towards his own fans, for which he later apologised. His two seasons at Reading came to an end in July 2011 when he joined home-town club Leicester City. Mills signed off at Reading with a headed goal in a 2-4 defeat in the Play Off Final to Swansea, now managed by Mills' former manager Rodgers.

Mills moved to Leicester for a reported £5m under manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, rejecting a move to Premier League side Wolves. He was immediately made captain at Leicester and the club began the season with promotion in mind. However this did not come to pass and Eriksson was replaced by Nigel Pearson.

It was in February of 2012 that reports emerged that Mills and Pearson had had a physical altercation in the dressing room after training. Mills denied the reports but he was relieved of the captaincy and demoted to the reserves.

He moved to Bolton Wanderers for a reported £2m in July 2012, signed by then-manager Owen Coyle to help Wanderers' battle to return to the Premier League following their relegation to the Championship. Mills said, upon signing

"This deal has worked out perfectly for me, mainly because Bolton are a fantastic club. Speaking to the manager, I have got the vibe of what the place and club is about and the ambitions of getting back into the Premier League."

Yeah, so did we, Matt.

Mills' first season at the Reebok Stadium was interrupted by injury and loss of form, the injury keeping him out of the side for almost five months. Upon his return Mills found it hard to get back into the side, being kept out by new manager Dougie Freedman's loan signing of Craig Dawson. He made his first appearance since injury in April 2013 in a 1-0 win against Huddersfield Town.

In the close season, Mills was expected to leave the club, being linked with his former manager Brian McDermott at Leeds United, and whilst talks occurred between the two clubs no deal was struck and Mills continued at Bolton Wanderers where he overcame an initial struggle to break into the side to eventually partner Tim Ream at the heart of the Wanderers defence.

Since then, Mills has been a solid member of the backline despite Wanderers' struggles.