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James Holland On Austria Wien, Australia And Learning From Oliver Glasner And Ange Postecoglou

James Holland LASK

LASK's Australian midfielder James Holland applauds after the UEFA Europa League Group D football match between LASK and Rosenborg BK in Pasching, Austria, on September 19, 2019. (Photo by Reinhard EISENBAUER / APA / AFP)

An interview with James Holland, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You established yourself as a first-team regular for the first time in the professional game at Newcastle Jets. You won the A-League with the club in 2008. What are your memories of that success? 

“My time at Newcastle Jets was a whirlwind, to be honest. I had a steady rise as a young player prior to singing for Newcastle Jets.

“I have great memories of my time there because we had such a strong group of players who bonded really well together. It was a young squad which was fun to be a part of.

“I also had the opportunity to play alongside my best friend in football, Jason Hoffman which was a nice experience.

“The success of 2008 came hard and fast with the end-of-season playoffs and grand final but I was naive — in a good way due to my age — at that time so I took things in my stride without worrying too much.

“We defeated Central Coast Mariners in the final in Sydney and they had players such as Tony Vidmar and Mile Jedinak on their side so to beat them was a special feeling.

“The key to our victory was our senior professionals in the dressing room. They emphasised the importance of the Grand Final to younger players like myself by stating that we might never reach such an occasion again.

“That inspired us to make sure we took this opportunity and gave it everything we had. Thankfully, it worked and we won the trophy.

“Overall, those were special times that I cherish.”

You moved to Europe in 2009 with AZ Alkmaar and spent time on loan at Sparta Rotterdam in 2011. How would you summarise your experience of Dutch football?

“My time in Dutch football was my apprenticeship in European football.

”It was tough at times as I had to adapt to a completely different culture to what I was used to growing up in Australia but I enjoyed my time in the Netherlands.

“I did not play often at AZ which was frustrating but I still learned a lot from training at the club alongside some top players.

“My loan at Sparta Rotterdam was also a positive learning experience for me.

”I look back on the move as being a necessary step in my development.”

You signed for Austria Wien for the first time in 2012 and won the Austrian Bundesliga with the club in 2013. That must have been a special moment for you.

“My first time at Austria Wien was special and it is great to be back playing at the club for a second spell at this moment.

”Moving to Austria was a cool experience and helped me being an established player in a European league. I needed that.

“The club is fantastic. It took me the first six months to adapt to what was required of me at the club.

“Then, in my first full season at the club, we won the Austrian Bundesliga ahead of a strong Red Bull Salzburg side who pushed us all the way.

“It was a wonderful feeling to win a league title as an established player rather than as a young up-and-coming player like things were at Newcastle Jets when we won the A-League.

“Winning a title in any European league is incredibly tough so to be a part of such a team was unbelievable. We only lost four games in the entire season which emphasises how strong we were.

“The fans at the club are fantastic and to win a title for them made it all the more special. They deserve success and thankfully in my first spell, we could deliver that as a team for them.

“I am now grateful to have returned to the club for my second spell as of 2022. We have new ownership and a new coach and I am excited to play my part in the club going forward in the present day.

“The club means an awful lot to me and I want to do all that I can to help the team succeed as an experienced player.”

You spent two seasons away from Austrian football between 2015 and 2017 with MSV Duisburg in Germany, Adelaide United in Australia and Liaoning Football Club in China. How do you reflect on those experiences?

”I had the option to extend my contract with Austria Wien in 2015 but I decided to move on because I felt that I was in my comfort zone at the club after a few successful years and I wanted a new challenge.

“I was open from the club from an early stage and I departed on good terms which was important to me after all that I had achieved here.

”I moved to Germany with the aim of playing in the Bundesliga in the future.

“MSV Duisburg were playing in the 2. Bundesliga at the time and I felt that would give me a platform to reach the Bundesliga as a player.

“Looking back, it could be argued that it was not the best decision for me.

“My year back in Australia with Adelaide United and my short experience in Chinese football was tough for me mentally from a footballing perspective and also from a life perspective.”

You returned to Austria with LASK in 2017. You stayed at the club for five seasons and even played against Manchester United in the Europa League knockout phase. What are your lasting memories from your time at LASK?

“Coming off a few tough years, it was special to return to Austrian football and join a team that was on the up.

“The current Eintracht Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner was the manager who brought me to LASK and he was phenomenal.

“He created a strong family feeling around the club. Every player was expected to think about the collective rather than himself and that was powerful. Despite that, he is also ruthless when he has to be and you know exactly where you stand with him which I like.

“He is a strong communicator and his idea of how to play football is magnificent. He has high levels of enthusiasm for what he does and what he believes in and I strongly believe that he will manage at the highest levels of football for many years to come.

“We overachieved in many ways if you look at our resources and the size of the club particularly in European football.

“We beat teams such as PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas, drew against Tottenham Hotspur and knocked my former side AZ Alkmaar out of Europe too.

“Those nights were amazing to be a part of which led to us facing Manchester United which was a good experience despite the scoreline.”

You have won 17 caps for Australia. What did playing for the Socceroos mean to you and your family?

“Playing for Australia was the pinnacle for me.

”I have a bittersweet feeling about how things went for me at international level because I do not feel that I fully took advantage of the opportunities that I had.

“That is a frustration for me as I would love to have played a bigger role in the team but that is part and parcel of being an athlete. You always want more.”

You worked under Ange Postecoglou while in the national team and he took you to the 2014 World Cup. What was Ange like to work alongside?

“Ange and Oliver Glasner are similar.

“He is a fantastic human being and his idea of how to play football is very consistent. He believes that football should be played in an attacking and entertaining way and he does not back away from that which is admirable.

“He takes no passengers as a manager and his expectations are clear to you as a player.

“He is doing a great job at Celtic now after success in Australia, Japan and in international football which is amazing to see.

“He deserves every bit of success that he has had because he has had to work hard for it. Nothing was handed to him.

“As an Australian, I am proud of him and what he has done as a coach. He is a shining example to Australians who have an ambition of succeeding overseas.

“I cannot speak highly enough of him to be honest.

“Going to World Cup with him was great but it was bittersweet in the sense that I did not play in Brazil.

“However, just to be involved with the squad was an honour because every player dreams of going to a World Cup and I can say that I have done that.”

Last but not least, James, based on your experiences in football so far under several coaches. Do you want to become a manager in your own right in the future? 

“Working with coaches like Oliver and Ange is inspiring for me and I am preparing for the potential opportunity of becoming a manager in future.

“It is hard to say whether I will ever get such an opportunity but I have completed my UEFA B licence.

“I am also in the process of finishing my Bachelor of Psychology degree at university as well as completing communication courses.

”I am ready to be a coach if the opportunity presents itself to me in the future because I love trying to help a group of players get the best from themselves as a senior professional and I think having the chance to do that as a coach would be very special too.”

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