Holland full of praise for captain Keane

PUBLISHED: 12:13 30 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:28 03 March 2010

Matt Holland is thrilled at the prospect of again playing alongside Manchester United captain Roy Keane in the Republic of Ireland's midfield on Saturday.

Matt Holland is thrilled at the prospect of again playing alongside Manchester United captain Roy Keane in the Republic of Ireland's midfield on Saturday.

Holland will be the opposition for the crucial Group Two World Cup qualifying tie at Lansdowne Road.

And the Ipswich skipper insists there is no finer player than Keane to lead his side into battle against the classy Dutch.

"Roy always keeps us on our toes. He is a great captain and also a great leader," said Holland.

"He is always the man to get back for the important tackle, scores goals and keeps shouting out encouragement – and, when necessary, criticism.

"Roy is superb international class and playing alongside him has definitely improved my game."

Holland is determined to break his Lansdowne Road scoring duck against the Dutch.

"I have now played 11 times for Ireland and scored three times," said the 27-year-old. "But all those goals have been away from home against Portugal, Andorra and Estonia.

"Now it would be a dream come true to score a goal in Dublin against Holland in front of the Irish fans."

With life at Ipswich currently being a bowl of cherries, Holland is hoping to also make his mark on the biggest stage of all.

"It was marvellous for the club to qualify for the UEFA Cup this season after promotion just 12 months earlier," he said.

"Now at a personal level I can achieve another giant step by playing in the World Cup finals with Ireland in Japan and South Korea next summer.

"That would be the pinnacle of any player's career. The Irish squad will be in a very determined mood when we take on the Dutch on Saturday.

"This match is a massive fixture as Holland must win to stay in the competition. The atmosphere at Lansdowne will be electric and Saturday cannot come soon enough."

Veteran defender Steve Staunton, winning his 91st cap, shares those sentiments as he recalls the World Cup exploits with his country under Jack Charlton at Italia '90 and USA '94.

Staunton said: "Those are the games you always remember. Everyone is now saying that Holland are under pressure because they must collect the three points, but the pressure is also on Ireland.

"We don't like losing in Dublin, especially after 13 matches undefeated home and away.

"We have proved the media all wrong. If you had been at a press conference 12 months ago before we started the Group Two qualifiers against Holland and Portugal, no one would have given us a chance of living with either of the big two.

"But come Saturday morning we are still three points ahead at the top of the group table. Yes, it will be a difficult game, but I am more than optimistic.

"The Dutch are, in my opinion, a better side than Portugal."

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