• James Holland of LASK (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
After five years in exile, forgotten Socceroos midfielder James Holland feels he's playing his "best football" and is determined to propel himself onto coach Graham Arnold's radar.
By
Philip Micallef

19 Aug 2019 - 1:26 PM  UPDATED 19 Aug 2019 - 1:26 PM

Holland, 30, is just one game away from a second UEFA Champions League campaign, thanks to his sparkling form for Austria's LASK Linz.

Having made the switch from Chinese club Liaoning Whowin in 2017, he commands a regular spot as a holding midfielder for Linz and last week played a key role in his team's 3-1 defeat of Basel.

He helped set up the first goal and provided the assist for the second as they secured their place in the play-offs for a spot in the lucrative competition where they will face FC Brugge in the first leg this week.

Holland is hoping success against the Belgian side would put him back in the spotlight and make a return to the green and gold fold a distinct possibility.

Arnold's Socceroos kick off their campaign to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with an away match against Kuwait on September 11.

Holland has not featured in the national side since being an unused member of Ange Postecoglou's 2014 World Cup squad in Brazil.

He rued his missed opportunities then so he's determined to make it count this time should he get a second shot.

"I think I didn't take the opportunity when it was given to me at the time and the others stepped up and grabbed it with both hands," Holland said from Linz.

"At the moment I am feeling really good and playing some of my best football so if given the chance I would do everything i could to make sure that my club form translates into my form in the national team colours.

"Playing on a regular basis definitely helps. But in saying that we have some great footballers in the middle of the park for the Socceroos so it's not as easy as that.

"I am sure Arnie makes his decisions based on what he believes is best for the team and if i get the chance again, I'll be really grateful. If not, that's something you have to accept as a footballer."

Holland helped Newcastle Jets win their only A-League championship in 2008 when he came on as a substitute in the 1-0 victory over Central Coast Mariners in the grand final.

He left the Jets for the glamour of European football in 2009 and after an undistinguished three-year period in the Netherlands with AZ and Sparta Rotterdam he signed for Austria Vienna where he enjoyed three successful seasons culminating in a league championship and subsequent participation in the Champions League.

He now has the chance to relive those very special nights when Austria faced the likes of Atletico Madrid, Zenit Saint-Petersburg and Porto in the group stage.

"Playing in the Champions League is a childhood dream for any footballer and for me it was no different," he said.

"It's arguably the pinnacle of club football so to get the opportunity to experience it with the group of boys that we have is something very special and something that I'm grateful for.

"We play a 3-4-3 at my club and we press teams really high up the pitch. So although I am still technically playing as a defensive midfielder, in our system we often find ourselves in very advanced positions.

"Last year I scored four goals and had four assists in all competitions and this season so far I have three assists in six games.

"I think that's a reflection of me playing a little bit higher up the pitch now based on the style and system we play with."

So can Holland still make a contribution to the Socceroos who are trying to reach their fifth straight World Cup?

With Mile Jedinak out of the picture Holland's chances of adding to his 15 caps would appear to have improved.

"Obviously I'd love to be involved in the national team like every Australian footballer and it would be really nice to get the opportunity again," he said.

"But at the end of the day that's up to the coach and whatever he decides is best for the team is a decision that you have to accept as a footballer. I'll just keep working hard at my end."