Holland: I needed to challenge myself

Midfielder James Holland says his move to German club MSV Duisburg was all about challenging himself at a higher level after three years with Austria Vienna.

Holland, who joined the Austrian side in in 2012 from AZ Alkmaar, enjoyed a successful stint with the Violets and made more than 100 appearances.

But the 26-year old knocked back a new contract with the club to explore opportunities elsewhere.

In late July Holland signed a one-year deal with 2. Bundesliga outfit Duisburg. He attracted interest from the A-League but the former Newcastle Jet never considered a return home.

“I’d been at Vienna for three years, and the last year and a half was a little bit difficult at the club,” Holland told FourFourTwo.

“It’s about me trying to make the next step in my career. I definitely was going to stay in Europe, no matter what. The Bundesliga is a fantastic competition and I speak the language which helps a little bit.

“Europe for me was the only option – that was the goal I set myself.”

Holland won a championship with Austria Vienna in 2013 and played in the UEFA Champions League.

“For me it was a club that helped me, it gave me the opportunity in Europe that I didn’t really get at AZ,” he said.

“And I had a fantastic time there. We won the championship, I played in the Champions League, which was amazing – it was a fantastic club to be part of and an awesome city.

“I suppose it was hard to say goodbye but I’m someone who doesn’t want to stay in a place because it’s comfortable. I wanted to challenge myself and I think regardless of the outcome I would have regretted staying there.”

The Socceroo admits his new club Duisburg, who were promoted into the second division after finishing second in the third tier in 2014-2015, has been a challenge.

“It probably wasn’t what I expected initially,” Holland said.

“I probably had my sights on the 1.Bundesliga, that was my initial goal. But in football sometimes things don’t work out. They gave me the opportunity to sign for one season, which at least gave me a foot in the door in Germany.

“Then it’s up to me to perform and see where it eventuates at the end of the season.”

The Zebras were founded in 1902 and are based in the North Rhine-Westphalia. So far, Holland has made five appearances in the league and cup, for two draws and three losses.

“Traditionally they’re a really big club, but they had some financial difficulties so they were kicked out of the second league a few years back and now they’ve made their way back up,” he said.

“This year their goal is just to consolidate themselves in the second league and then build going forward from there.

“I’ve had a couple of good games and a couple of not so good games. It’s been a fast introduction to German football as I only had a couple of days there before I had my first game. But it’s been good.

“I think the biggest difference (with the Austrian Bundesliga)] would be the physicality. It’s high-tempo, there’s a lot of running where the Austrian league is a little more tactically disciplined and the teams approach the game a little bit differently.

“I maybe need to find my feet still and get used to the football and my teammates and everything. I’ve got to make the most of it.”

Holland knows the pressure is on him to produce this season, which may open doors elsewhere. In the 2. Bundesliga he will come up against fellow Socceroo Ben Halloran at FC Heidenheim.

“I’ve got to see what happens at the end of the season but my main goal is just to perform well for myself and for my teammates, and we can keep Dusiburg in the competition,” Holland said.

“If I can perform well, I can see what opportunities there are at the end of the season – whether that’s to stay at Duisburg or move on I’m not sure yet.

“I was speaking to Benny (recently) because I’m living in Dusseldorf as it’s close to Duisburg, he was giving me some tips on Dusseldorf. It will be good to play against them.”