Exclusive interview with Jamie Hollywood

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Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTSTwenty-year-old Jamie Hollywood certainly has the name to impress and followers of his new club Longford Town FC will be hoping the midfielders name is indeed up in lights with the promotion favourites come the end of 2018. However, relatively inexperienced at this level despite spells with Bohemians and most recently Drogheda, questions will be asked regarding the youngsters ability to cope with the pressures from an expectant home crowd, who endured an underwhelming return to the second tier last season.

Speaking exclusively to Between the Stripes, first on the disappointment of relegation with the County Louth side and then the standards he is expected to meet at his new club, Hollywood has this to say:

‘’It’s never good to be relegated at any level and of course I still feel like I could have added more to the team when I did feature, but with only a couple of starts it was hard for me to try and put my own stamp on games and influence them in our favour.’’

‘’Relegation wasn’t a nice feeling and I’ll use that this year, especially if we are pushing for the league, and if there’s any doubters I’ll be looking to prove them wrong too.’’

‘’My aim (for 2018) is to be playing regular football week in week out and with the players in the squad so far we are looking to be right up there come the business end of the season.’’

‘’The fans have a right to expect big things from us this year and it’s up to us as players to deliver and deal with that pressure.’’

Hollywood started his League of Ireland career in his native capital with Bohemians under-19’s at the same time that Longford Town were capturing the First Division title in 2014. Impressing for the ‘’Gypsies’’ underage side, Hollywood was rewarded with a senior friendly appearance against Scottish side Dundee United in July of that year. Despite that, Hollywood failed to break into the first-team ranks with under-19 campaigns for 2015 and 2016 following. When asked why the then ‘’Bohs’’ manager Owen Heary never looked to integrate the talented young midfielder into the senior setup at Dalymount Park, Hollywood replied:

‘’Owen (Heary) was great to me as a youth coming from Crumlin United 17’s into a League of Ireland set up with the 19’s, I was only 17 at the time and had a lot of areas in my game I needed to improve on and develop and in the three years of 19’s football I saw the benefits.’’

‘’With the Senior team being as physical and competitive as it was, I didn’t expect to be involved at 17 years of age. It didn’t work out at ‘’Bohs’’ for me come the end of my 19’s spell but I really enjoyed my time there and felt I learned a lot, which ultimately got me a move into the Premier division with Drogheda.’’

Listening to Hollywood reflect on his footballing education at Dalymount Park, one thing is clear and that is a huge deal of respect still lingers for Heary. However, Longford’s bright young star was quick to fire a word of warning in the direction of his old mentor, who now of course oversees First Division rivals Shelbourne.

‘’I have great respect for Owen (Heary) but I’ll be looking to take maximum points when our teams meet.’’

Only making a handful of appearances under the old school Pete Mahon last season, Hollywood clearly did enough to impress former Dundalk and Cork City striker Neale Fenn, who is relatively new to LOI management himself having only taken the reigns at Longford mid-way through last season following Alan Mathews departure from the Midlands club. When asked about talks with Fenn over the off-season, Hollywood revealed why it was an easy decision to sign for the rookie manager.

‘’As soon as Neale (Fenn) contacted me I was very interested. You don’t have the luxury of picking different clubs within the league who’s style of play are similar to Neale’s, so I feel as a player I will definitely benefit from this. I’m really looking forward to taking my game to the next level and I feel Neale and Daire (Doyle, Longford Town assistant manager) can help me do that.’’

Of course Hollywood is far from the first player to make the switch from United Park to City Calling Stadium with ‘’Drogs’’ duo Chris Mulhall and Shane Elworthy both signing on for the London-born Fenn for 2018. When asked about linking back up with his former United team-mates Hollywood commented:

‘’The two lads will always give everything they have and will leave nothing in the dressing room. Chris’s movement is second to none and I feel his goals will play a big part in challenging for the league. I was delighted that Shane (Elworthy) signed, he’s a good mate of mine and it was great to get someone with his quality on board and add to the squad we are building here.’’

While the move to Longford could be considered the biggest of Hollywood’s fledgling career to date, the midfielder is set to face fierce competition for a starting role at his new club. Re-signing from last year’s Longford squad in the centre of midfield are veteran Dean Zambra and the revitalised Sam Verdon, who scored three times for ‘‘De Town’’ following his summer arrival from St.Pat’s. Speaking on the competition for places ahead of the new First Division season, which will kick-off on February 26th, Hollywood remarked:

‘’I learned a lot from the experienced players at Drogheda, particularly the midfielders and I hope to do the same here. The two lads (Verdon & Zambra) are top players and I hope I can work with them, it’s always good to have healthy competition and it’s a given at club who’s aims and ambitions are high. There’s a lot of young talented players here pushing people for places already and that will only be of benefit to us as a team going forward.’’

Rounding off our discussion, Hollywood was asked if he had a message for his new followers in the Midlands.

‘’Our hopes are high as players this year and our fans are expected to be the same. There’s no doubt fans play a huge part in every game and we should be looking to make the City Calling a stadium that teams don’t like coming too. Our ambitions are to be celebrating as one come the end of the season!’’

ENDS.