IPSWICH TOWN HALL OF FAME: Matt Holland recalls his childhood Blules memories
Some of Matt Holland’s earliest footballing memories involved Ipswich Town.
As a youngster, Holland would watch his dad play football on a Saturday afternoon and be charged with revealing the scores from the Football League as the players finished the game.
“The games would kick-off about 2.30pm so all the players would come off and ask me what the scores were,” recalls Holland.
“Every week it would seem as though I was telling them the same thing, ‘Paul Cooper saved a penalty for Ipswich’.”
It’s ironic then that the 49-capped Republic of Ireland international was inducted into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame alongside the iconic Blues keeper.
“I actually got a bit emotional which is unlike me,” Holland adds.
“It was a very special moment, especially when you consider some of the big names that have played for the club, it’s quite humbling.
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“I could go on forever listing the names, but I grew up in an era watching the likes of George Burley, Mick Mills, Roger Osborne and Terry Butcher.”
It was one of the aforementioned stars that lured Holland to Portman Road, Burley signing the midfielder from Bournemouth for £800,000 in 1997.
“I didn’t have any hesitation making the move,” recalls Holland, who captained the club to the Premier League, via the play-offs in 2000, and then led the Blues to a fifth-placed finish in their first season back in the top-flight.
“I remember meeting George Burley and I went back home to my wife-to-be and said ‘we are moving to Suffolk and I would like you to come with me!’”
He added: “Did I ever envisage what would follow? I guess you always have targets and ambitions and I suppose playing so many consecutive games and being made captain as well was not beyond my expectations.”
The 4-2 play-off final victory over Barnsley at Wembley stands out as being one of Holland’s highlight in a glittering career at Portman Road, although his first season playing in the top-flight as Town battled to a top-five finish and a UEFA Cup spot was also special.
The Blues were relegated in 2002, but Holland remained at the club for another year before moving to then-Premier League regulars, Charlton.
“Getting to the Premier League and having success there is probably the highlight, especially after we had gone so close in years before and suffered a few setbacks,” said Holland.
“We came from behind in games and we grew together if you like, certainly in the dressing room.”
Referring to Town’s second season in the Premier League, Holland still can’t put his finger on one specific factor as to why things went wrong.
“We went down and there was a number of reasons for that,” he said.
“The UEFA Cup was a distraction and you don’t realise how difficult it is to play in two competitions.
“You only have to look at how Newcastle struggled recently after reaching Europe.
He added: “I stayed the following season and won the player-of-the-year award and we got close to the play-offs that season too.
“I joined Charlton, although leaving Ipswich never entered my mind.”