Department of History

Matt McGinn

Matt stands in an urban environment, wearing a grey t-shirt and round glasses.

Matt talks to us about the motivation for his postgraduate studies and how time spent living in Spain working on a sports newspaper inspired his field of research.

A PhD about football and national identity

"My PhD is an oral history of football and national identity in Galicia which is an area in Spain which has its own language and devolved government. Similar to Catalonia and the Basque Country. But it's never had a nationalist movement like those areas. It struck me that this is an area where there hasn't been a great deal of research into the relationship between nationalism and sport. 

I did a History degree at the University of Nottingham, then a masters in History and now I’m in the third year of my PhD. I didn’t go straight from my undergraduate degree into my masters. Instead I took a couple of years out first and moved to Spain where I lived, worked and learned the language. 

I had intended to teach English out there, but stumbled into a completely different job which was working at a sports newspaper in Madrid. It was right up my street combining journalism, translation and sports. That stood me in good stead for coming back to start a masters because by the time I'd come back my Spanish was good enough to be able to do the research that I'm doing now.

Also, during my time in Madrid I became involved in one of the teams in Galicia. So, through that I became interested in what football meant to people there and how it how it affected their sense of identity and how they built their sense of identity through football. 

I think it's interesting that football and sport more generally, has the capacity to change the way that people think about who they are in a particular moment generally. So my research looks at that process in a specific environment.

I hadn’t really considered postgraduate studies until one of my professors suggested it to me as he thought that I’d enjoy it and do well at it. It was important to me to continue at Nottingham, as opposed to going elsewhere, as my research interests coincided closely with my professor’s. And I really liked the city and was keen to come back. I also had the added motivation of my girlfriend working here too."

About oral history

"I’m using oral history to collect my research which I think is becoming more common, possibly because it’s being used more and more as a journalistic tool. You'll see it quite a bit in the States, for example oral histories of a particular film, or band. I think it is gaining more visibility in popular journalistic writing, I wonder if that is alerting people in academia to its to its possibilities within our field as well.

The most rewarding aspect of my research is when an interview has gone really well. That's a really brilliant feeling. 

I love it when you walk away from an oral history interview and you a feel like you've made a good connection with someone who you wouldn’t have met otherwise. 

Also, it’s exciting to walk away from an interview having heard something that either reaffirmed what you were already thinking or to have contributed a completely different idea that hadn't entered your mind before. That's the really gratifying part of it."

What would you like to do after your PhD?

"That's the big question, I'd like to go into a social or market research role which involves interviewing people and working out why they think what they do about a certain subject. That's what I really like about my PhD, it's a kind of nosiness really, you've got this excuse to ask people questions that in any other context you wouldn't be able to ask."

How has the Midlands4Cities funding made a difference?

I wouldn't have done this if I didn't have the Midlands4Cities funding. I wouldn’t have been able to give up three/four years of my life without a fixed income, so the Midlands4Cities funding has been fundamental.

"Midlands4Cities are also very good at putting on different events for career and skills development. In November I’ll be attending a Prince2 course which is a qualification in project management.

It's definitely not just the case of being accepting for funding, recieving the money and then beign left to it. They are very supportive and understand that not everyone who's doing a PhD will want to go into academia"

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Department of History

University of Nottingham
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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