Matthew Oakley is an English midfielder who was born in Peterborough on 17th August 1977. Oakley began his career at Southampton, making his debut in a 0-0 draw at Everton on 6th May 1995. He was a bit part player at The Dell in 1995/96, but broke through in 1996/97 under manager Graeme Souness. Oakley divided opinion among supporters during his time at Southampton, which lasted over a decade. Some believed he was one of the most underrated players around, and kept the team ticking with his passing ability, while others thought he was fairly limited.
Oakley scored his first goal for Southampton on 23rd September 1996 in a 3-1 loss at Wimbledon. He quickly followed that up with a second five days later in a 4-0 besting of Middlesbrough. Oakley earned himself four caps for England U21's in 1997, but never got remotely close to a senior call up. He missed just a handful of games in 1997/98, when Dave Jones guided Saints to an impressive 12th place finish, but appeared less frequently the following campaign when Southampton narrowly avoided dropping out of the Premiership.
Oakley scored in televised thrillers against Manchester City and Derby in the opening weeks of 1999/2000. He also scored against Everton on 22nd January 2000, which turned out to be Dave Jones final game in charge. The man who replaced Jones was Glenn Hoddle, who improved Oakley's game. Oakley helped Southampton finish 10th in 2000/01.
Oakley remained a regular for Saints in 2001/02 when the club moved to their new St Marys Stadium. He continued to perform well for the club when Gordon Strachan was appointed boss in October 2001. Oakley made a big contribution in helping Southampton reach the FA Cup final in 2003. He scored both goals in the club's 2-1 4th round replay win at Millwall on February 5th 2003. Oakley played in every round in the run up to the Cardiff final on 17th May 2003, as well as the final itself against Arsenal.
On September 27th 2003, just three days after Oakley had represented Southampton in Europe against Steaua Bucharest, the midfielder suffered knee ligament damage, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. Oakley returned to pre season in the summer of 2004, but reinjured himself almost immediately during the clubs tour of Sweden. Oakley made his long awaited return to action on Boxing Day 2005 in a 0-0 draw with Charlton. Rotherham had offered to take the midfielder on loan in January, but Saints boss Harry Redknapp decided to keep him at St Marys. Oakley scored a stunning opener from the edge of the penalty area in the tense 2-1 derby day win over Portsmouth on 29th January 2005. He was never quite the same player that he was prior to his extended lay-off though. As the longest serving player on the pitch, Oakley should have put in a braver performance in the disgraceful 4-1 drubbing at Portsmouth on 24th April 2005. On April 30th he scored in the end to end emotional rollercoaster against Norwich, which Southampton ended up winning 4-3. Oakley had to watch from the bench on May 15th 2005, as Southampton were relegated to the Championship after a 2-1 home loss to Manchester United.
Oakley re-established himself as a regular during 2005/06, but was largely disappointing. He scored in the second match of the season at Luton on August 9th. He missed the last few months of the season after suffering injury against Sheffield Wednesday on 25th February 2006. Saints boss George Burley was unconvinced by Oakley, and only offered the midfielder a one year contract extension. Oakley rejected the offer and left the club in June 2006.
On 4th August 2006 Oakley joined Derby County on a three year deal. The former Saints man had turned down a one year deal with Charlton Athletic, who he had been training with during pre season. He had a great start to his career with the Rams after making his debut at Stoke on 8th August 2006. On 12th August he scored his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win at Hull. He followed that up with another goal in his third match on September 9th against Sunderland. Oakley captained Derby to a promotion to the Premiership through the play-offs. He was a key man for Rams boss Billy Davies, scoring 6 times in 2006/07.
Oakley scored in Derby's first game back in the Premiership on August 11th in a 2-2 draw with Portsmouth. Unfortunately things didn't get much better for County in 2007/08. The club only won one match all season, and only picked up 11 points, by far the worst total in the history of the league. Oakley had given Derby the lead in one of his last matches for the club against Blackburn on December 30th, but after Steve Howard missed a penalty Paul Jewell's side fell to bits and lost 2-1.
On January 11th 2008 Oakley signed for Leicester City for a fee of £500,000. He made his Foxes debut a day later in 2-0 win over Coventry City. Oakley could do nothing to stop Leicester from being relegated however. The club dropped to the third tier for the first time ever after a goalless draw with Stoke on the final day.
Oakley was appointed club captain at The Walkers Stadium by new manager Nigel Pearson in 2009/10 and helped Leicester bounce straight back to the Championship, with a 1st place finish. Oakley was named League 1 Player of the Month for January and was also named in the divisional team of the year at the end of the campaign. He helped the club to a 23 match unbeaten run and also scored 8 goals.
Oakley formed an excellent midfield partnership with Richie Wellens 2009/10, and contributed to Leicester's play-off finish. He missed both legs of the clubs eventual semi-final defeat at the hands of Cardiff in May 2010. Despite the arrival of new owners, new manager Sven Goran Eriksson and a host of new players, Oakley remained a regular fixture in the Leicester starting eleven during 2010/11. He had to wait until 12th April 2011 to score his first goal of the campaign, in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.