Holland back to his best

MATT Holland, who has played more than 250 midfield games for Ipswich, has no problem playing in the defence.The 28-year-old Town skipper said today: "I was signed as a defender and I enjoy playing in that position.

By Elvin King

MATT Holland, who has played more than 250 midfield games for Ipswich, has no problem playing in the defence.

The 28-year-old Town skipper said today: "I was signed as a defender and I enjoy playing in that position."

Holland has not missed a league game since he signed from Bournemouth in the summer of 1997 and he is confident he help Ipswich extend their current unbeaten run at Burnley tomorrow.

For the previous four seasons the Republic of Ireland international has performed with considerable success in the middle of the park.

But when Joe Royle took over from George Burley – and injuries began to mount at the back – Holland was switched to the back three.

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He has performed with distinction as the Suffolk side has moved up from the bottom six to a place in the top half of the First Division table.

Holland admitted that he prefers midfield because of the extra licence it affords, but he will play at the back as long as his manager wants him to.

"When you are winning you enjoy your football anyway," said Holland, who has earned rave reports along with Thomas Gaardsoe and Chris Makin at the back of a 3-5-2 formation.

"I played for half a season at the back for West Ham reserves and from December 1996 until I was sold to Ipswich I played in defence for Bournemouth.

"George Burley signed me as a replacement for Steve Sedgley and to play at the back."

It is easy to forget now that Holland played his first half dozen matches for Ipswich at the back. "I played between Jason Cundy and Mark Venus," he recalled.

"Then, when we were 2-0 down against Stoke City, I was moved into midfield by George. I managed to score a goal even though we were beaten 3-2.

"In the next match, against Torquay in the League Cup, I stayed in the middle of the park and scored a couple of times. From that moment I stayed in midfield.

"That is my position, but at the end of day it doesn't really matter to me and it is up to the manager.

"There are times when I have to hold the reins in, as my natural instinct is to go looking for any holes that appear upfield.

"Hermann Hreidarsson just makes a bolt for it, but some of us have to sit tight. Seriously, I can smell danger and have been pleased with my recent performances."

Town's key man pinpointed when the turning point came in the club's fortunes after the drop down to Division One.

"The manager gave us a bit of a roasting at half-time during the away match at Brighton," he said. "We followed that up with good performances against the top two sides Portsmouth and Leicester City.

"This gave us extra confidence and our self belief has returned. There was never any doubt about the quality of the side."

Holland says that Jamie Clapham will be missed, but he does not rule out further departures. "The financial position dictates it," he added.

"The redundancies currently being made do not affect the players, but it still hurts. We have every

sympathy with those who have to go. We are all one big team.

"Titus Bramble, Marcus Stewart and now Jamie have left mainly because of the financial situation. Add Matteo Sereni, Ulrich Le Pen and Amir Karic plus Finidi George being available on a free transfer and our playing numbers have been considerably reduced.

"I can understand this after being relegated and youngsters like Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose and Matthew Richards are emerging. More players may go this month, but we will still be strong enough to aim for a top-six place.

"My position is the same as it was in the autumn. I want to stay with Ipswich and win back a Premiership place.

"Jamie is a good person and a good footballer and he will be missed. He has performed excellently under the new manager and has undertaken a number of roles.

"Burnley are a good side, but we will enjoy playing on their big pitch and I am confident of another good result."

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