In a career which took in spells at West Ham United, Bournemouth, Ipswich Town and Charlton Athletic, Matt Holland developed a reputation as a skilled, box-to-box midfielder.
Holland was captain of the Ipswich team who took the Premier League by storm in 2000/2001, finishing fifth just one season after being promoted via the play-offs, and that only enhanced his reputation.
His ability also saw the Bury-born man earn international recognition and he was a part of the successful Republic of Ireland first team at the 2002 World Cup, scoring an equaliser in their opening game of the tournament in a draw with Cameroon.
And, here, speaking on behalf of Capital One, the credit card company and sponsors of the League Cup, the now-40-year-old looks back on his memorable playing days.
FINEST HOUR – 2000 FIRST DIVISION PLAY-OFF FINAL, IPSWICH 4 BARNSLEY 2
“I got to the semi-final of cup competitions but did not win a major competition. But what I did do was play at Wembley and win a play-off final as captain with Ipswich when we got promoted to the Premier League. Lifting a trophy at Wembley was always my dream as a kid. It was not quite the FA Cup or the Capital One Cup but it meant an awful lot to the club. Playing and scoring in the 2002 World Cup with Republic of Ireland was also extra special.”
FAVOURITE GOAL – LEEDS 3 CHARLTON 3, MAY 2004
“Leeds were relegated from the Premier League after this game. It was also Alan Smith’s last game for Leeds before he joined Manchester United but the Leeds fans did not know that at the time, because they carried him off on their shoulders! I scored the first goal from about 30 yards past Paul Robinson.”
FOOTBALL HERO – BRYAN ROBSON
“I was actually a Manchester United fan when I was growing up in Bury. You were either a United fan or City fan; I was a Manchester United fan. Gary Neville went to my school and was a year younger than me. So being a United fan, growing up, my hero was Bryan Robson. I liked his attitude, his full-blooded nature, his box-to-box running and his goals. He put his body on the line.”
MOST DIFFICULT OPPONENT – STEVEN GERRARD
“I was lucky to play against some top players. Internationally, I played against Ronaldinho, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane. In the Premier League, I was testing myself against people like Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Frank Lampard. But Steven Gerrard sticks out as a dynamic midfielder. He was one of those that, if you had gone past him, he always seemed to get back at you. But he would also run you the other way by getting forward.”
MOST TALENTED TEAM-MATE – PAOLO DI CANIO
“I played with him at Charlton and, in terms of ability, he was right up there. Some of the things he did in training, you just stood and applauded sometimes. His attitude was also excellent. He was the first one to arrive at the training ground and the last one to leave. He was completely dedicated to his profession. He was a volatile character and there were times in training when he would have his moments and his ups and downs. But he expected high standards.”
Matt Holland was speaking on behalf of Capital One, the credit card company and sponsors of the League Cup