Matt's tribute to Mogga

FORMER Ipswich skipper Matt Holland once arrived at a crossroads in his career and met the man who guided him down a one-way street to success. These days Holland captains Charlton, mixes it with the Premiership big boys at Old Trafford and Highbury and has almost 50 caps for his country.

By Dave Vincent

FORMER Ipswich skipper Matt Holland once arrived at a crossroads in his career and met the man who guided him down a one-way street to success.

These days Holland captains Charlton, mixes it with the Premiership big boys at Old Trafford and Highbury and has almost 50 caps for his country.

He has already played and scored at the World Cup finals and is crucial to Brian Kerr's plans as the Republic of Ireland bid to qualify for Germany in 2006.


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But he will never forget the role mentor Tony Mowbray played in his career.

Mowbray's outstanding start to his management career has seen Hibs rise to fourth in the Bank of Scotland Premier League.

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The former Middlesbrough and Celtic defender has moulded his youngsters into one of the most attractive sides in the country and Hibs are lapping it up.

Holland, 30, revealed Mowbray was regularly sought out for advice at Portman Road by youngsters such as Kieron Dyer, Richard Wright and Darren Bent.

“Tony is the nicest and most honest guy in the game and is utterly professional in everything he does, on the park and off it,” said Holland.

“He lives his life properly and always played the game in the right spirit, which helped set a good example to the youngsters.

“He was a huge influence at Ipswich, particularly on the young guys who looked up to him because he had solid advice to give but was also well respected by the senior players in the team.”

He said: “Hibs players such as Derek Riordan should put their trust in their manager and the good advice he gives.

“Tony did it with me when I first arrived at Ipswich and he was always there, willing to talk and listen. He helped me settle into the club and the biggest thing he stressed to me was that if I worked hard, the benefits would come.

“This game can be financially rewarding at the very top and Tony always told me that if I prepared right and worked hard I would get what I deserved, but that it was entirely up to me whether I got there or not.

“There's a long list of players he helped at Ipswich, including different ways and knowing what made individuals tick, no matter their age or background.

“There are no sides to him and he was valued as one of the senior guys in the dressing room who could even speak to the manager on your behalf if you didn't feel comfortable about doing it yourself.”

Holland took over the captain's armband at Ipswich from Mowbray when he eventually hung up his boots soon after leading the club to the Premiership four years ago.

Their 4-2 victory over Barnsley in the play-off final at Wembley remains Holland's greatest memory of the team-mate who went on to become his coach.

Holland said: “We went 1-0 down against Barnsley but Tony scored the equaliser and was named man-of-the-match in a game that epitomised exactly what he's all about.

“It's no surprise he has gone into management because it was always his aim and we'd spoken about his ambitions in the past when he was studying for his coaching badges.

“He has a great knowledge of the game and was always reading up about it - even on the bus back from games he'd have his nose in manuals about the game, studying different training techniques.

“It translated on to the training ground as he always had fresh ideas for the lads every day.

“I was delighted when I heard he'd been given the opportunity at Hibs - and I've been keeping an eye on their results - it was good to see them doing so well against Celtic (Hibs were unlucky to lose 2-1) recently.

“He's proving to be a good manager but no one who knows Tony would ever had doubted it.”

Holland will not be surprised if he eventually comes up against his former team-mate again in the Premiership.

He said: “All I can say is Tony's hugely ambitious. He wanted to play at the highest level as a player and achieved it and I know he'll want to achieve the same goals as a manager.

“For him to be given the chance to manage in the SPL, where he played so much of his football with Celtic, is a great opportunity and he's proving he can be a success.

“But I know he'll also be desperate to manage at the highest level. The Premiership? Yes, absolutely. It wouldn't surprise me one little bit.”

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