Meet head of football development Paul Holland

2 weeks ago By Stewart Thorpe

The former professional heads United's new academy

June 6 1995, a 21-year-old Paul Holland slipped on the England jersey and made his debut for England U21s against would-be champions Brazil at the Toulon Tournament.

‘Dutch’ - as he’s known to those around him - had built a solid reputation at Mansfield Town since he joined as a 14 year-old schoolboy, playing in the reserves from the age of 15 and making his first team debut aged 17.

An all-rounder in midfield, he was just as comfortable scoring crucial goals for the Stags as he was slotting in at the back, and had attracted various player of the season accolades.

The international tournament was a sign of things to come from the talented footballer, who starred alongside Phil Neville and David Beckham.

Dutch was plying his trade in Division Three (Tier four) at the time of the call-up, but had the promise of playing – and attracted interest from clubs - at a much higher level.

But a promising career was cruelly cut short more than 300 career appearances later as a knee injury forced his retirement aged just 26.

Dutch, who heads up Long Eaton United's new academy, has a positive outlook on his career, seeing it as an opportunity gained rather than one lost, having been told by a doctor that he should have considered packing it in aged 19.

As well as Mansfield Town, Dutch would gone on to play for Sheffield United, Chesterfield and Bristol City.

He would also go on to make four international caps for the Three Lions at U21 level in Toulon where he was fielded alongside the best player in his career.

“Beckham was still under 19, he was just breaking into the United first team. He was the same as every single one of the lads. No tattoos. The floppy curtain haircut. The thing that you could notice about him was that he was always out on the training pitch. He was there with a bag of balls practising free-kicks, practising corners.

"When I first got told about my call-up I thought the manager at Mansfield was taking the micky because he was a bit of a practical joker. It was something I had never dreamt of. Now I feel it’s a life time ago but I'm working with lads 16 to 18 who I could have the same influence on as what some people had on me."

Dutch also fondly remembers the tournament for securing his move from Mansfield to Sheffield United, when Dave Bassett flew to France and signed a contract with Dutch in the back of a Nissan Micra.

At Bramall Lane he would spend a year before transferring to Chesterfield and eventually onto Bristol City, where it all ended after a great start to the season.

"I started the season well and played the first eight games, I think I scored three goals and then played away at Oldham and I got my foot stuck in the ground and it snapped every ligament in my knee and split my knee cap in two."

Despite 22 knee operations, Dutch would never play again.

"I had 18 months trying to get back fit at Bristol and it was hard. I knew realistically it was a bad injury and that the chances of recovery were slim. Then you try and look at what to do after, I was luckily enough to go back to Mansfield in a coaching role and it was back full circle, coaching 16 to 18 year-olds. People like Jake Buxton, Alex Baptiste, Nathan Arnold, Liam Lawrence."

The 44-year-old now channels his experiences into developing the next generation of footballers at Long Eaton United's academy.

With a new football season within touching distance, Dutch is preparing to support first team manager Steve Welsh - whom he recently worked with at Ilkeston Town - with the new setup. With Welsh and his assistant Shaun 'Bullet' Rickford leading the first team, Dutch leading the academy and Nick Dargan leading the development squad, the club hopes to create a pipeline of young players for the first team.

"We’ve always said we want to make this the best Non-League academy around here," says Dutch. "The facilities are already here, the football club have invested in classrooms and mini buses, they’ve given myself and Steve all the tools that we need to make it the best about.

"People will be fighting to get down here because they want to be a part of it."

Updated 22:16 - 8 Aug 2017 by Stewart Thorpe

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