RUGBY-mad Matthew Wilson realised his sporting ambition when he was signed up by his hometown club as a teenager.
These days, he’s tackling weighty business issues as commercial director at Milnsbridge-based The Horizon Group, which supplies products including signs, furniture and other items of fabrications to sectors including transport, healthcare, education, leisure and construction.
Matthew, 34, who was brought up in Fixby, was signed by Huddersfield Giants when he was 17 on a three-year deal.
He played mainly for the academy and reserves before quitting at the age of just 20 – having had few opportunities to break into the first team.
“Rugby was all I was interested in,” he says. “It was just unfortunate that when I was at the club, we had five first team coaches in four years.
“Not many of the new lads got an opportunity – although Marcus St Hilaire, Paul Jackson and Ryan Hudson all went on the successful careers.
“I started playing rugby union when I was eight, but my best friend at the time got me to go to Underbank Rangers from the age of 13.
“I went to the Giants and was signed up. I was over the moon. I was playing for the under-19s in the academy during the week and for the reserves on Saturdays.
“I’m still a massive Giants fan and watch them play. I’m very confident they can do all three – win the Super League, the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup. They have the squad and I like the way Nathan Brown is picking and switching his team to match the opposition.”
Seeking employment after leaving the Giants, Matthew was offered a job at Horizon Signs by managing director Keith Ball .
He spent five years with the firm at Britannia Road before leaving in 2004 to set up his own business supplying whiteboards and pinboards for schools and colleges.
He sold the business in 2007 to a rival firm based in Scotland, but continued to work for them for 18 months before becoming frustrated by the way things were done. “They couldn’t get things out of the factory on time for the customers,” he says. We were behind with our projects.
“I had always kept in touch with Keith and his son Ross at Horizon Signs, so I returned to the company.”
In 2009, Matthew set up Horizon BSF to focus on providing products for the education sector and has never looked back.
Now he is commercial director for The Horizon Group, which has been formed with the merger of Horizon Signs, Horizon BSF, transport sector signs specialist Horizon PTI, metalwork specialist Horizon Fabrications and paint finish facility Horizon Powder Coating.
The merger means different parts of the group can collaborate on projects, pool resources and offer more competitive rates.
Horizon BSF is providing items including whiteboards, pinboards, racking, shelving, mobile storage units, lockers and changing room benches to the contractors on schemes to build or refurbish schools and colleges across the country.
The company got a boost from the Building for Schools programme, which was launched under the previous government.
But it has maintained momentum and can boast healthy order books taking it well into next year.