Brett Holman: From hated to hero

by John Davidson on Nov 23, 2012

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The transformation of Brett Trevor Holman from controversial topic to integral figure in Australian football is complete, writes John Davidson.

On Wednesday night Brett Holman was named the 2012 Australian Footballer of the Year at the Australian Football Awards. It was just rewards for the Aston Villa midfielder, whose career has had a remarkable upswing in the past three years.

Not too long ago Holman was inadvertently cast in the villain role for the Socceroos. He was a popular target for many fans and sections of the local media. Not clinical enough, not good enough, a wasted selection etc etc. Australian supporters derided his place in the national team and questioned his ability. A ‘Brett Holman is a Joke’ group thrived on Facebook.

But Holman didn’t waver, didn’t give up, and didn’t complain. He continued to work hard, in training and in games, and excelled in both clubland and the international arena.

The western Sydney product, who debuted briefly in the NSL with Parramatta Power and first moved to Holland with Feyenoord in 2002, has showed his mental fortitude and strength to silence the doubters. Holman has learnt a lot from his decade in the Netherlands. While he might never have got on the park in a senior match for Feyenoord, he excelled on loan at Excelsior. He then spent two years at N.E.C Nijmegen, where he did well, and joined AZ Alkmaar in 2008.

In his fours year at AZ Holman went from being on the fringes to becoming an invaluable player. He improved his game, took instruction from coaches such as Louis van Gaal, Ronald Koeman and Dick Advocaat, and started regularly in the Eredivisie and Champions League. He became an indispensable part of the AZ XI.

I saw how crucial Holman became to the team last season, in August, when I watched AZ live at home in the Europa League. That night at the delightful AFAS Stadion Holman proved his worth with an effective display full of running, smart passing and attacking thrust. He was the vital link from attack to defence and on the end of most of AZ’s best chances. It was the kind of display that demonstrated his quality and showed that he was capable of making it in the English Premier League.

Holman’s metamorphosis for the Socceroos came about before the 2010 World Cup and gathered pace in South Africa. His two goals in the tournament, especially the fantastic long-range effort against Serbia, were the final straw. In everyone’s eyes, included the critics and the unconvinced, Holman had really arrived.

Since then he hasn’t missed a beat. Apart from Tim Cahill, the Bankstown-born attacker has become the Socceroos’ most important player - our creative linchpin, our heartbeat. A return of eight goals from 57 appearances might not scream it, but Holman is a key component of the Australian squad. He not only scores goals but sets them up, wins the ball and creates opportunities. He is vital to the Socceroos’ chances of qualifying for 2014.

Holman has met his latest challenge, conquering the English Premier League, with relish. Aston Villa might be struggling but the Australian winger is flying with 11 appearances so far for the Villans. He is the only Aussie featuring regularly in England’s top flight, apart from Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer, and he has won over the Claret and Blue faithful and manager Paul Lambert with his dynamic efforts.

You get the impression that at 28 years of age, the best of Brett Trevor Holman is yet to come. We can be thankful the Enfield Rovers junior has plenty of football left in him for both club and country.