Town's BFG has left the building after three rollercoaster years... but the smile never left his face
- Credit: Pagepix
Ipswich Town’s BFG has left the building.
Three years of smiles, great memories and frustrations have come to an end now Tomas Holy has been released and is heading for pastures new.
There’s no escaping how popular a character he was, both amongst supporters and team-mates alike. That’s because he really was the Blues’ ‘Big Friendly Giant’.
He was the kind of upbeat character Ipswich needed to help lift any potential gloom, following relegation, and his relationship with supporters has endured despite his and his team’s struggles.
Holy will always be a popular figure at Ipswich and has some great saves and moments to look back on, but you can’t discuss his time with the club and ignore the reasons why the Blues have moved on in the goalkeeping department.
At 6ft 9in, you would expect your goalkeeper to have a supreme command of his penalty area and be dominant in the air. This wasn’t the case with Holy for long spells, with the feeling he wasn’t using his height to the maximum. It was restrictive, too, with the stopper not always able to get down to low shots quickly enough. He wasn’t the only Ipswich player asked, by Lambert, to do more than he looked comfortable with when it came to playing out from the back.
The upgrade Ipswich have managed between the sticks, in signing Christian Walton, is significant.
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The hope is that Walton is between the Ipswich sticks for many years, just as Bartosz Bialkowski was prior to Holy’s arrival. The Pole certainly proved a tough act to follow for Holy and his fellow keepers during the first two League One seasons.
Following relegation, it was clear Bialkowski would be moving on at the end of a largely brilliant Ipswich career, though the Pole’s move to Millwall dragged on far longer than anyone would have liked, which meant he and Holy overlapped. That was never the intention.
Holy made a good first impression, with early interviews with the Czech revealing a gentle giant who was truly excited by the opportunity to join a club the size of Ipswich Town, following three years at Gillingham. You could feel the warmth.
The original plan was for Holy to be the Blues’ No.2 but Ipswich couldn’t bring in a second keeper until Bialkowski exited. Finance dictated that. The move eventually happened on July 30 and Will Norris was signed later that day. Holy had all of the pre-season mileage in his legs and rightly began the campaign.
And it started well, with Town firing out the traps and Holy more than playing his part as Ipswich equalled a club record for successive clean sheets. There were some excellent saves added to the highlight reel and all felt good.
But, when the wheels began to fall off Ipswich’s season, with back-to-back losses against Accrington and Rotherham, Holy began to pay the price.
‘The Wolf from Wolves’, as Holy had dubbed Norris, had to make do with cup outings in the early weeks of the season but did eventually come into the league side at the end of October.
That led to both keepers switching positions regularly, with Holy recalled to the team and producing his most-memorable Ipswich moment as he clawed away a late, late Wycombe penalty to secure a draw at Portman Road. It was a brilliant save and a brilliant night for a popular man.
But he was on the bench again for the next game and had to make do with scraps until a succession of Norris errors ultimately caught up with the loanee, meaning Holy started six of the seven matches before lockdown hit. The mood was very different by this point.
And when he and football returned from the Covid break he had a new challenger, in the shape of David Cornell, with the pair enjoying a similar battle to the one he’d had the year before with Norris.
Holy entered the season as the starter, lost his place, won it back again and then dropped out of the side for a second time as neither Paul Lambert or Paul Cook could truly settle on a No.1.
And that meant, heading into the great rebuild last summer, both keepers were surplus to requirements. Cornell moved on, given he was out-of-contract, but Holy remained.
He quickly fell behind Vaclav Hladky and then to No.3 behind Walton, meaning he played only three cup games during his final season. His last game at Portman Road proved to be a nightmare as he first fumbled into his own net, before getting an undeserved reprieve from the officials, and then gave away the penalty which saw Ipswich beaten by West Ham’s Under 21s.
By this point it was clear Holy’s time at Town would soon be up. First came an emergency loan switch to Cambridge for two matches before the Czech joined Port Vale in January.
It was time to say goodbye.
So, what next for Holy? Well, at one point a permanent move to Port Vale looked like the most-likely option for the popular keeper, given he spent the second half of the season on loan at the League Two club.
But, after starting his side’s first nine matches, he was dropped to the bench at the start of March and never appeared again.
But Holy has 150 League One appearances to his name, so would it really be a surprise if a third-tier club came calling? He may need to be content with a bench role, but he should have options.
The pull of a return to the Czech Republic, where he began his career with Sparta Prague, must surely be considered as well as other potential moves abroad.
The world is Holy’s oyster, in a way, but wherever he goes next, he’ll do so with the best wishes of so many who knew or watched him in Suffolk.