LIVES IN: LONDON
CLUB: Sutton & Cheam
Also played for: As guest for Manchester/Bristol/Cheltenham in British Champs. PSV Eindhoven (NED), Pays D’Aix Natation (FRA), Navarra (SPA) and Reims Natation (FRA).
International honours: First cap at European Qualifiers, Dubrovnik, 2008 and last at EU Nations 2018, Prague. Major comps: European Bs, Lugano 2009 (4th), World League 2011/12 (Groups), Olympics 2012 (Groups), Commonwealths 2014 (1st).
Best player played with: Rob Parker with GB and Petar Tomasevic, Pay’s D’Aix Natation.
Best player against: Revaz Chomakhidze – ridiculous how good he was back playing for Georgia, pushing 40. Ed Scott and I have an ‘Old Boats’ VII, comprised of the best old boys we have played against, and he certainly takes the centre-forward position.
Best coach: Andrei Iosep, GB coach, 2013/14, who managed to get the most out of a predominantly part-time squad resulting in great wins v Netherlands/Malta/Slovakia/South Africa/New Zealand as well as good results vs France/Russia/Romania/Hungary, culminating in winning the 2014 Commonwealths. His leaving was a great loss to GB water polo.
Hardest shot faced: Tom Curwen – in his prime one of the best shots in the world and still not too shabby. His not going to the Olympics shows that, even when we did have decent funding, we didn’t necessarily know as a sport what to do with it.
Other sports: Used to play cricket, football and basketball.
Parents: Chris and Tracey. Always travelled to games with the other parents and gave great support. Dad has represented GB masters in Triathlon.
Siblings: Olly. The ‘better’ Holland as the lads used to say. Came to lots of games/tournaments and helped organise the post-match bonding.
Biography: Started swimming with Sutton aged 10, which coincided with club legend Charlie Thurley taking over the junior water polo section. I went along and as the biggest and most willing I was put in goal. The southern counties team started weekly training a couple of years later and the strength and commitment of this team helped push on our development. Jack Waller, Sean King and myself from that team all went to the Olympics and many others played for GB juniors.
I went to University in Leeds and starting training with the senior team in Manchester, making the drive across with Ed Scott four times a week. We also trained together in Leeds and I was able to learn a lot from him as he had been trained by Theo in Manchester and was already the GB no 1.
After University, I went to Eindhoven with Ric Lawlor, Ciaran James and Mike Bourne to play for PSV. We trained hard, worked hard stacking shelves in a local supermarket and played hard at a bar owned by a 3rd team player who gave us 1 euro beers. On a pre-season tour to Croatia I learnt an enormous amount on specific technique and conditioning drills from their crazy goalkeeper coach and used this as my basis for training that year, improving massively. This allowed me to get more game time for GB and then a professional contract with Pay’s D’Aix Natation in France.
I played three seasons in Aix en Provence during which I went to the Olympics in 2012 and Commonwealths in 2014. These were brilliant years of my life, living in the South of France playing with some great people and at the same time playing for the national team with my mates and getting good results. Ed Scott and I had a good relationship and worked well together as the two goalkeepers. I think it’s a real benefit for a coach to have two keepers at the same level who play a different way. Ed was technically better and rock solid whereas I was a bit attacking and used some more guesswork and mind games to unsettle things!
I then moved on to Spain to play for Navarra, a team Sean King and GB coach Andrei used to player for, based in Pamplona. I had an enjoyable year playing in a tough league and being coached by ex-Spanish goalkeeper and legend of the game Manel Silvestre. After, I moved back to France to play for Reims in the 2nd division. We only trained once a day and therefore I could work as a teacher and coach at the same time. It was hard work at times but we won the league and again I played with some good guys. The coach Frank Missy used to coach the national team and knew how to assemble and mentor a winning team.
Since then I have moved back to London and play for and coach Sutton. We are playing in the 1st division now after nine years and have won the London league three years out of the last four. I was assistant coach to Tim Dunsbee at the Student Games in 2017 where we finished in the top eight, a massive achievement for the lads. A big part of that was the Peter Pickford’s performance in goal vs Canada to win 8-7. With Peter, Dylan Green and Tom Manley there are certainly some talented young keepers in the UK. Just need a national team for them to play in.
Junior photo (below): This remarkable photo was taken in 2002 and shows a Sutton & Cheam junior team with their coach, the late Charlie Thurley. Matt, aged 13, is easy to spot – he’s next to Charlie and already proudly wearing the red goalkeeper’s hat. He’s not the only player still active at the club. These include two more current BWPL regulars, Stephen Bayles (back row, far left) and Dicken Maclean (back row, far right). Others still turning out in local league matches are Ollie Holland, Matt’s brother (back row, second left); Andrew Lawrence (back row, fourth left); Dave Smithson (front row, second left); and Rob Worland (front row, fourth left).