300 up for Matt

MATT Holland has called on players and supporters alike to put the off-field woes behind them and concentrate on taming the Wolves at Portman Road tonight.

MATT Holland has called on players and supporters alike to put the off-field woes behind them and concentrate on taming the Wolves at Portman Road tonight.

Victory will put Town into the top six and a step nearer the promised-land that is the Premiership.

The Blues captain, who makes his 300th appearance for Ipswich Town tonight, has been in a similar situation before, arguably a lot worse, when he was a young captain at Bournemouth.

Ipswich bought Holland for a bargain £800,000 from the Bournemouth administrators in the summer of 1997.

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Now, as then, Holland was an invaluable link between players and management and, after being away with the Republic of Ireland when the news of the administration was broken, he has caught up with matters after a lengthy, and amicable, chat with chairman David Sheepshanks.

Holland said: "We spoke at length and he informed me what the administrators' role was and just took me through things step by step.

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"Some people were trying to make a big deal of these being showdown talks but that was never the case.

"It was an informative meeting and it will enable me as the players' representative to act as a bridge and answer any questions the best I can."

With so much going on around them the players have had to try and focus on tonight's crucial Division One match.

Holland admits: "It is difficult, especially for the younger players just coming into the game. I know it is a cliché but once you cross the white line everything is forgotten and winning is paramount.

"The players have their own ambitions and everyone wants to play in the Premiership and with the financial situation as it is there is even more pressure to win promotion.

"We have to forget what is going on off the field and do our business on the pitch."

Holland has enjoyed many highs and lows since making his debut in a goalless draw at QPR.

He won his first cap for the Republic of Ireland, whom he skippered for the first time last week in Scotland, and played in the World Cup.

He also played in the UEFA Cup for two successive years and helped Town to fifth place in the Premiership.

But the highlight among those 299 matches for the Blues remains the 2000 play-off final.

He said: "Wembley has to be the one. The day we were promoted was one of the best days in the club's history and certainly in my career.

"Lifting the trophy at Wembley was amazing and to be promoted there was ideal. If you can guarantee going up through the play-offs then that would be the way to do it, unfortunately there is no guarantee."

Holland will come face to face with international team-mate Mark Kennedy tonight, should the Irish winger recover from a back problem.

The Town midfielder said: "Wolves are a good side and they are a team challenging for a play-off place. The danger man for me is my Republic of Ireland colleague Mark Kennedy and he is one we will have to stop. Hopefully he won't be fit.

"They are a dangerous side but they are also inconsistent. They beat Newcastle and Leicester but then go and lose to Brighton but they have shown that on their day they are a good team.

"But then so are we as we have shown. We have beaten Leicester home and away, drew with Pompey at their place and have beaten third-placed Sheffield United at home and drew at their place so we are capable of beating the best in this division."

For those who enjoy statistics, Holland's 300th Town appearance will also mark his 245th consecutive league game for Town and will leave him one short of 350 total league appearances.

He has played 416 domestic games, scoring 60 times, and 28 internationals with four goals for his country.

Not bad for a young lad rejected by Arsenal as being too little and shipped out by West Ham without making a senior appearance.

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