Thursday, September 9, 2010

Holman adds another string to Australia's bow

When I first saw Brett Holman play for the Socceroos several years ago against Uruguay, I thought he was lucky to have made the team. If he and Carl Valeri represented the “new” generation of Australian footballers, the post “Golden Generation” Socceroos could well be in serious trouble. Touted as Australia's attacking hub for the the coming era, he ran around like a crazy person yet was ineffective off the ball, didn't threaten with either pass or dribble and it appeared he was taught his finishing skills by Gary Neville. What was evident however was his stamina and enthusiasm as he played off primary striker Scott McDonald, then of Celtic, another talented “skippy” yet to make his mark on the international stage.

But since that warm-up match for the 2007 Asian Cup in Sydney, Holman has moved clubs (to AZ Alkmaar) and through persistence achieved a solid international footing. One can argue that with Luke Wilkshire, the headless chicken of the past was one of Australia's best at the recent World Cup and provided the highlight of South Africa 2010 for the Green and Gold Army with his 25-yard goal against Serbia. His only drawback for the tournament was then-manager Pim Verbeek's reluctance to pair him and Tim Cahill together, fearing a duplicity of talent.

His record for Australia still isn't great statistically but Holman has scored in three of his last five matches – including against Poland in a startling cameo on Tuesday – bringing his international goal tally up to 5. Against Asian competition who won't have his combination of power, pace and stamina he looms alongside Cahill's aerial ability as Australia's trump card going into the 2011 Asian Cup. This in turn allows new coach Holger Osieck to add a second string to an Aussie bow which under Verbeek consisted only of high crosses into the box by the Socceroo “bomb squad”. Australia will for once have a creative dynamo with the ball on the floor as well as the dominant box presences of Cahill & Joshua Kennedy. The key now is to ensure that these three are suitably ready and meshed to provide that combination.

The re-retirement of old stager Scott Chipperfield robs Australia of a forward threat that replacements Tommy Oar & David Carney may initially struggle to match. This means a squad replete with staid midfielders may again need a spark – one which Holman is now perfectly capable of providing on a regular basis.

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