Ahead of returning to The Valley on 14th May for Play With A Legend's Stadium Event Day, Charlton legend Matt Holland spoke to PWAL about his move to Charlton, his time playing with Kevin Lisbie (his opponent on 14th), and discusses just how much he's looking forward to returning to the Valley pitch.
Matt, just how hard was it to leave Ipswich?
It was a hard one, because I’d been there for 6 seasons and had some really good times there. I obviously got promoted whilst there, but at same time I’d spent a year in the championship trying to get back to the Premier League and was desperate to be back playing in the Premier League again. Also, the club needed the money, they needed to sell a few players. So, whilst it was difficult, for me, it was an opportunity to be back playing in the PL again.
When you left Ipswich, why did you choose Charlton?
I had a couple of clubs come in for me – I spoke to both Portsmouth and Charlton. Harry Redknapp was the manager at Portsmouth at the time. Moving to Charlton obviously meant that I didn’t have to move house, which was something! It was only 60 miles away from my house, so it wasn’t a million miles away. Having said that, I’d been at Bournemouth previously, that’s where my wife is from, so going to Portsmouth would have been going back to her home if you like. So that wasn’t the overriding decision. Charlton at that stage were probably a more established Premier League club. The fact that Curbs (Alan Curbishley) had been in charge for such a long time and done such a good job keeping them in the Premier League, I think they were probably more established at that stage.
Are you looking forward to returning to the Valley on 14th May for our stadium day?
I always love going back to the Valley. I was fortunate actually to get invited back to the training ground this year, with the new manager Karl Robinson, having a look at some of his plans and looking at what they’re trying to achieve under him. I was at Ipswich six years, but I was at Charlton six years as well – people seem to think I was at Charlton a lot less than I was at Ipswich, but I was there for the same time! So I have a lot of close, good memories of the club and I always enjoy going back. I haven’t been back as much as I’d like to or should have done since retiring but it’ll be a great opportunity on the 14th May to get back on the pitch again. I’m looking forward to it.
What’s your best memory at the Valley?
Probably boxing day (2003) when we beat Chelsea. We beat them 4-2 and that’d be the stand out!
What’s the best goal you scored at the Valley?
Well I enjoyed my one in the boxing day game against Chelsea – a header, jumping above Marcel Desailly! I scored one against Middlesbrough, when Paulo di Canio pulled one back and I curled it into the top corner. There were a few good ones!
On 14th May you’re playing against Kevin Lisbie – what are your memories of playing with him at Charlton?
I’m a bit worried about that! He’s a bit younger than me. He retired a lot more recently than me, so I think fitness might tell in that respect. I’m a bit wary of playing against him! But i’ve got great memories of playing with him, he’s a great lad. I’ve got bad memories as well actually – I was at Ipswich when he smashed one in from about 30 yards on the angle! But his hattrick against Liverpool would stand out for me. He’s a great lad who always has a big smile on his face, always enjoying life. I’m looking forward to catching up with him again!
How would you assess Charlton’s season this year?
It would have been frustrating as at the start of the season they would have been targeting at least the playoffs. That hasn’t materialised and will be frustrating I’m sure. Hopefully the manager will be given the license to bring in who he wants during the summer transfer window. But I’m quietly optimistic for next season. Fingers crossed that next year’s a good one!