Holland relishes new management role

Another website exclusive as First Team Assistant Manager Chris Holland talks to Andrew Wake about stepping up to management, past career and his hopes of maybe getting a game!

WHILE most active footballers would be chomping at the bit to get on the field in Guiseley’s remarkable first campaign in the Blue Square Conference North, assistant manager Chris Holland is happy on the sidelines.

The 35-year-old midfielder was appointed as Steve Kittrick’s number two after the departure of Phil Thompson in September and now sees the duties of his new job as more important than getting a kick on the pitch.

“I’ve fallen into the role a little bit now and I’m enjoying it,” said the former England Under 21 star. “I suppose it helps when you’ve been top of the league at the New Year and you’re winning games.

“It wasn’t something I set out to do at the start of the season, I signed back on as a player, but I knew I wouldn’t have many more years left as a player so to become assistant manager is a great opportunity for me and I couldn’t really turn it down.

“Steve and Phil Thompson went their separate ways and he was struggling to find someone who’d been at the club for a while and he could trust. I think Steve just thought I’d be a good choice.

“Obviously I knew the players at the time and a lot of the them he brought in I’d met before. He wanted someone who could liaise with the lads and it’s going alright.”

Steve Kittick has been critical in the past of need for West Riding County Cup games in an already cluttered seasonal schedule. For Holland, however, the local cup competition might be a good way for him to participate in some action this term.

“I was on the bench on New Years day due to injuries and suspensions but I do think if I play it’s more likely to be in the West Riding Cup games,” he stated.

“I do train with the lads on Tuesday and Thursday nights so I’ve not stopped altogether and I keep myself ticking over for when needed but the lads have done so well and where I play in midfield, the boys have superb this season.

“You don’t change a winning side so I don’t expect to play when everybody is fit but if it does happen then so be it.

“I suppose if we were three-nil up with 20 minutes to go Steve might throw me on at some stage to give me a bit of fitness and a way of getting back into it because I haven’t played an 11-aside game since last April. I’ll have to see.”

The club’s meteoric rise up the table at English football’s sixth tier has surprised many. For Holland, one of the key factors has been an incredible team spirit as it’s helped newer players instantly gel with Nethermoor veterans.

He commented: “We’ve got such a good atmosphere, the banter is brilliant and Steve’s done great. He’s kept the spine of the team from last season and then added other quality footballers.

“Steve’s got a real an eye for the players, he’s good at getting them in and seeing if they get on with the lads.

“We’ve been to games where we haven’t been at our best but you just get a feeling everyone’s in it together and nobody is getting on anyone’s back. Even when we don’t play well we still feel like we can grind out a result.”

Holland’s own footballing career has seen some majestic highs. As a teenager he was snapped up by then Newcastle United boss Kevin Keegan and went on to enjoy over two years at St. James’ Park.

But disaster struck mid-way through his time at the Premier League club when a night out with friends almost cost him his future in the game.

Holland was an innocent bystander when an argument broke between a group of lads in a nightclub. When one of them sprayed ammonia into the crowd, Holland was blinded and had to be rushed to intensive care.

“The papers back home in Blackburn were reporting in that I’d been blinded in both eyes,” he recalled. “My parents, family and friends were devastated so they were quite relieved when they saw it was just the one eye.

“I had to have a six week course of steroid drops and a cornea graft. I was never going to be able to see properly and initially I had to wear a patch to play in but after a while you stop thinking about it.

“People always ask me how good I think I could have been if I’d have kept my eye sight but it’s not something I think about. I’ve had a decent career, met some decent people and I’m still involved in football now.

“I was in the England under 21s at the time. I went to Birmingham and started off quite well there until I feel out with Trevor Francis and then I had five decent years at Huddersfield, went to Boston, Stockport, Leigh and then finally Guiseley.

“I’ve played league football most of my career so I didn’t do too badly. I’ve had decent time in football and I’ve no regrets.

“I’m going into the next stage of my career now, which is to go into coaching and assisting and thanks to Kitty because he’s given me the opportunity.

“At the moment I’m enjoying my new role and hopefully come April we’ll be in a good position again like we were last season.

“I know we’re a small club but I honestly believe if we were to move up again we’d hold our own. We’d get a few players in with the squad we’ve got and see how it goes.”

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