Chelsea today announced that Steve Holland will be replacing Paul Clement as Reserve Team Manager, after Clement was made permanent First Team Coach by Carlo Ancelotti last week. But what do we know about the new man in charge of the second string?
Well, he’s 39 and has a wealth of experience. He arrives from Stoke City, having spent five months there as Academy Director. He made his name, however, at Crewe Alexandra, where he spent seventeen years, including a year and a half as manager. He worked at all levels from the academy to the first team during his long tenure at Gresty Road, working closely with Dario Gradi, a bastion of youth development.
Notable names from the Crewe production line under Holland include Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Rob Hulse and Seth Johnson. Robbed of a professional career by injury at just 21, Holland was hired by Gradi, who had coached him at Derby County. With long and consistent success at producing players capable of taking Crewe into England’s second tier, Holland was at the top of the list when Gradi announced his retirement from management in 2007. Replacing a legend is never easy and duly, he struggled. After just eighteen months in charge and narrowly avoiding relegation to the fourth tier, Holland, who was adamant about not resigning, was sacked and replaced by Gradi.
The relationship soured and his long stay with Crewe was over. However, he soon landed on his feet, in the same role at Stoke City, coming to the end of their maiden Premier League campaign at that point. Impressed with the setup and talents the likes of Nathaniel Wedderburn and Danzelle St. Louis-Hamilton, Holland spoke of his confidence at a successful future for the club, and managed to take two highly rated Crewe prospects with him. His record hadn’t gone ignored by Chelsea though, who had already approached him to replace the departing Brendan Rodgers just after he was sacked.
Holland declined, citing family reasons, and not wanting to relocate to London. However, he has clearly found it hard to say no a second time, and is clearly delighted to be at Chelsea:
‘”I got the call and it does take your breath away momentarily. The opportunity to go and develop myself in that environment with the calibre of staff at Chelsea is something I am looking forward to. I know a fair amount about the reserves, I have managed to see them play and have spoken to the necessary people about them. I know Jeffrey Bruma played last night against England’s Under 21s and I have a reasonable idea about them.
I have a well-rounded base of experience of taking teams and working with senior players and developing younger players. Paul Clement has progressed from youth team to reserves to first team, so it is a club where the development of young British coaches is at the forefront of the mind.”
He takes over at a time when the Reserves is going under a generational shift. With the likes of Jack Cork, Sam Hutchinson, and Liam Bridcutt all reaching the age of 20 and needing regular first-team football, the younger reserves coming up from the Under-18s will be looking to take their next steps. Daniel Philliskirk, Ben Gordon, Nikki Ahmed and others should shape the team this year, and can go forward knowing they’re working under a man who has a fantastic track record.
It marks a departure from Chelsea’s recent Reserve team appointments, which had been promotions from within, going back to the days before Mick McGiven. Perhaps concerned with the approach – despite the personal successes of Brendan Rodgers and Paul Clement, undoubtedly fine coaches – the acquisition of a man with a proven track record may very well be the work of the club’s new football board, and another part of their blueprint for success.
We shall wait and see. Good luck Steve.