James Holland on Austria Wien, Australia and learning from Oliver Glasner and Ange Postecoglou
An interview with James Holland, by Callum McFadden for Wireless.
You have established yourself as a first-team regular for the first time in Newcastle Jets professional play. You won the A-League with the club in 2008. What memories do you have of that success?
“My time at Newcastle Jets was a whirlwind, to be honest. I had a steady rise as a young player before singing for Newcastle Jets.
“I have great memories of my time there because we had such a solid group of players who bonded very well. It was a young team that was fun to be part of.
“I also had the opportunity to play alongside my best friend in football, Jason Hoffman, which was a great experience.
“The success of 2008 came hard and fast with the season-ending playoffs and the grand finale, but I was naive – in a good way because of my age – at that point, so I took things in my stride without worrying too much.
“We beat Central Coast Mariners in the final in Sydney and they had players like Tony Vidmar and Mile Jedinak alongside them, so beating them was a special feeling.
“The key to our victory was our senior professionals in the locker room. They underlined the importance of the Grand Final for young players like me stating that we may never reach such an opportunity again.
“It inspired us to make sure we took this opportunity and gave it our all. Fortunately, it worked and we won the trophy.
“Overall, these are special moments that I cherish.”
You moved to Europe in 2009 with AZ Alkmaar and were loaned out to Sparta Rotterdam in 2011. How would you sum up your experience of Dutch football?
“My time in Dutch football was my apprenticeship in European football.
“It was difficult at times as I had to adapt to a completely different culture than I was used to growing up in Australia, but I enjoyed my time in the Netherlands.
“I didn’t play often at AZ, which was frustrating, but I still learned a lot training at the club alongside some of the best players.
“My loan spell at Sparta Rotterdam was also a positive learning experience for me.
“I see the move as a necessary step in my development.”
You first signed for Austria Wien in 2012 and won the Austrian Bundesliga with the club in 2013. It must have been a special moment for you.
“My first time at Austria Wien was special and it’s great to be back playing at the club for a second period at this time.
“Moving to Austria was a great experience and helped me become 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 expected 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 a promising young player like it was at Newcastle Jets when we won the A-League.
“Winning a title in any European league is incredibly difficult, so to be part of such a team was incredible. We only lost four games in the whole season, which shows how strong we were.
“The fans at the club are fantastic and winning a title for them made it even more special. They deserve success and luckily on my first visit we were able to offer that to them as a team.
“I am now grateful to have returned to the club for my second spell from 2022. We have a new owner and a new manager and I am delighted to play my role at the club in the future.
“The club means a lot to me and I want to do everything 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 these experiences?
“I had the option of extending my contract with Austria Wien in 2015 but decided to move on as I felt I was in my comfort zone at the club after a few successful years and wanted a new challenge.
“I was open to the club from the start and left on good terms, which was important to me after everything I had achieved here.
“I moved to Germany with the aim of playing in the Bundesliga in the future.
“MSV Duisburg were playing in 2. Bundesliga at the time and I felt it would give me a platform to reach Bundesliga as a player.
“Looking back, you could say it wasn’t the best decision for me.
“My year back in Australia with Adelaide United and my short experience in Chinese football was tough on me mentally from a football 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 stage. What are your lasting memories of your time at LASK?
“After a few tough years, it was special to come back to Austrian football and join a growing team.
“Current Eintracht Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner is the manager who brought me to LASK and he has been phenomenal.
“He created a strong family feeling around the club. Each player had to think about the collective rather than themselves and that was powerful. Despite that, he’s also ruthless when he has to be and you know exactly where you stand with him, which I like.
“He’s a great communicator and his idea of how to play football is magnificent. He has a high level of enthusiasm for what he does and what he believes in and I strongly believe he will succeed at the most. top level of football for many years to come.
“We exceeded our expectations in many ways if you look at our resources and the size of the club, especially in European football.
“We beat teams such as PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas, drew Tottenham Hotspur and also eliminated my former team AZ Alkmaar from Europe.
“These nights were amazing, which led us to play 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 have gone for me at international level as I don’t feel like I took full advantage of the opportunities that were available to me.
“It’s a frustration for me because I would have liked to play a bigger role in the team, but that’s part and parcel of being an athlete. You always want more.
#InternationalBreak James Holland – Australia – Midfielder – 15 caps 2008-present. Currently with Austria Vienna pic.twitter.com/7hkBeZCAdR
— Martyn Bishop (@MartynBCFC) January 11, 2015
You worked under Ange Postecoglou in the national team and he took you to the 2014 World Cup. How was Ange working alongside you?
“Ange and Oliver Glasner are similar.
“He’s a fantastic human being and his idea of how to play football is very cohesive. He believes football should be played attackingly and entertainingly and he doesn’t shy away from what 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 successes in Australia, Japan and international football which is amazing to see.
“He deserves every success he’s had because he had to work hard to achieve 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 for Australians who have the ambition to succeed overseas.
“I can’t talk about him enough to be honest.
“Going to the World Cup with him was great but it was bittersweet in the sense that I didn’t play in Brazil.
“However, just being involved in the team was an honor because every player dreams of going to a World Cup and I can say that I did.”
Finally, James, based on your experiences in football so far under multiple coaches. Do you want to become a full-fledged manager in the future?
“Working with coaches like Oliver and Ange inspires me and prepares me for the potential opportunity to become a manager in the future.
“It’s hard to say if I will ever have such an opportunity, but I got my UEFA B licence.
“I am also in the process of completing my bachelor’s degree in psychology at university as well as taking courses in communication.
“I’m ready to be a coach if the opportunity comes my way in the future because I like trying to help a group of players get the best out of themselves as a senior professional and I think to have the chance to do that as a coach would make him very special too.
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