‘Put me in and you won’t regret it!’ – Tomas Holy jokes he’s ready to play midfield
- Credit: Picture: Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town top the early League One table. STUART WATSON spoke to affable keeper Tomas Holy about ‘promotion football’, playing out from the back and the battle for No.1 spot.
Ipswich Town goalkeeper Tomas Holy has joked that he is ready to step in as an emergency midfielder if the injuries keep mounting up.
The giant Czech, whose positive personality is infectious, made the revelation in a fun exchange that started when he was asked how much he enjoys playing out from the back.
“I do like it because when I was younger, very young, I used to play outfield,” he said. “I’ve not been a goalkeeper all my life you know.
“I would play wherever they wanted me to play. I remember mostly being a central defender, but also a centre midfielder – so creative for a big guy! – but that, I don’t know, was 16 years ago. It was kids’ football.”
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So with Flynn Downes and Cole Skuse both injured for months, and Jon Nolan having also missed Saturday’s 4-1 win at Blackpool with a calf strain, should we be telling manager Paul Lambert that his 6ft 9in keeper could ditch the gloves for a spell?
“I’m open to everything!” he laughed. “If he needs me in there I’m definitely not going to be hiding! I’ll take the opportunity.
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“It would be tough for me because maybe I would get a yellow card too early. I would be good there for maybe the last five, eight minutes of the game. Put me in and you won’t regret it!”
The 27-year-old, on a more serious note, went on to say that Lambert’s new game plan of playing out from the back is something he is trying to get better at.
“I have to work on it a lot because sometimes, technically, I am not okay,” he said. “Sometimes it beats me a little bit, but I really like because it looks like nice football. It’s better than just kicking it as far as I can and seeing what happens.
“Obviously it comes with big pressure. When I make a mistake, when I lose the ball, there is only net behind me and that’s a really bad position to be in.
“Me and Dai (Cornell), we work on it every single day with Jimmy (Walker, goalkeeper coach). I guess we will improve at it and get better and better.”
The Blues top the early League One table after an unbeaten five-game start made up of four wins and a draw. They’ve scored 11 and conceded just two.
“It has been absolutely incredible,” enthused Holy. “You can even include Bristol Rovers in the (Carabao Cup) and against Arsenal youth team (in the EFL Trophy).
“To be honest, I don’t know what has happened! I saw the Cambridge game, the last pre-season game (a 1-0 loss), and said ‘okay... hopefully it is going to be fine’. Then we played against Bristol (3-0 win) and we were like a different team and I was thinking ‘alright... this might work’.
“Since the Bristol cup game we have played football which, in my opinion, has been football for promotion because it has been absolutely incredible what the boys just did. I don’t even know what else I can say because I’ve been so impressed.
“Even the MK Dons game, which was really, really difficult for us, was a good point given we played with 10 men for so long. I always try to find positive stuff in negative things. We watched it back and that was a great lesson to learn from.
“I feel like we are a completely different team to the one we were last season. I feel confident this season. If we stick with a plan, and keep performing like we have, then we should be fine.”
Holy, a free transfer addition from third-tier rivals Gillingham last summer, started 21 of Town’s 36 league games in his debut season at Portman Road, with Wolves loanee Will Norris starting the other 15 during a campaign of rotation.
Now he faces fresh competition from David Cornell, the Welshman signed on a free transfer this summer after playing a key role in Northampton Town’s promotion via the League Two play-offs. Holy has started all five league games so far, plus the curtain-raiser against Bristol Rovers in the Carabao Cup, with Cornell playing in the cup ties against Arsenal U21s, Fulham and Gillingham.
“To be honest I didn’t have any chats with the manager about who would be the starting keeper, but I did tell Jimmy (Walker) during pre-season training that I want to be goalkeeper number one and thank God it came through.
“Now it is all about keeping the spot because Dai (Cornell) is absolutely unreal competition for me. In my opinion, he is not only a great guy but also a high-quality goalkeeper and I like his style.
“We literally see how we push each other in training. I see how hard he is working I am telling myself ‘no, no, no, I want to be working harder’ and I raise my level. After we finish we are both smiling and thinking ‘yeah, that was a proper session!’. I really like him as a person and also as a goalkeeper, but I also want to beat him! And he wants to be better than me, so that’s it.”
With Luke Chambers required at right-back and Luke Woolfenden having been sidelined with a groin injury, Town’s surprise centre-back pairing as been Toto Nsiala and James Wilson. The duo have been rock solid.
“Hopefully this isn’t going to be rude from me, but Toto is like a massive, big wall for me,” said Holy. “He had a difficult time last season but now he is like someone else.
“How many shots has he stopped? How many tackles has he won? How many passes has he blocked? I said to him; ‘Who are you?! You are not the Toto from last year!’
“The other guy with him, Willo (James Wilson), is the same. I said to them: ‘Hey! What is happening here?!’ We are absolutely like a different team. It is so exciting and, to be honest, that I can hardly wait for the next game. I am really enjoying how the boys are playing.”
The one tinge of disappointment so far has been the fact that supporters have been unable to be in the stadiums to enjoy the wins due to the government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
“It is weird for everyone,” said Holy. “When we score a goal it is like ‘yoo-hoo, we’ve scored a goal, nice, go on, keep going!’ instead of the explosion of emotions that you would normally get. That’s what I really miss.
“But I always try to find a positive and maybe the pressure is not so high as it is with people in the stands.
“Also, at least the boys in front of me can hear me clearly and I don’t have to shout too much. That means my voice is okay afterwards!
“People belong in stands, supporters keep us so much more alive, but it is what it is and there’s no point thinking about it because I don’t have the power to change it.”