(GREAT DAYS! Dan Holman fired Cheltenham Town to promotion in 2016 before going out on loan to clubs such as Leyton Orient)
By Hugo Varley
Three years ago, Dan Holman was in the form of his life. The Northampton-born striker rattled in more goals than any other player in the country’s top four divisions to jointly win the National League Golden Boot in 2016 and fire Cheltenham Town to promotion.
Since then, though, Holman has been on a journey of highs and lows. Yes, he finally achieved his childhood dream of scoring in the Football League, but he also suffered the adversity of being frozen out of the first-team picture at Whaddon Road and leaving for a number of short-term loan deals back in Non-League.
After an ill-fated spell with Aldershot came to an end last month, the forward, still only 28, is relishing the prospect of rediscovering his shooting boots in Step 3 with Southern League Central leaders Kettering Town.
“The last few years have been really eye-opening and I have made some brilliant memories and met some great people but I needed a bit of stability,” Holman told The NLP.
“The promotion-winning season with Cheltenham will always stand out for me as the most memorable campaign of my career.
“I was playing my best ever football and giving myself the opportunity to play in League Two the following season was really special.
“Last year was much tougher for me because I kind of bounced around a few clubs on loan.
“I could have just sat on the sidelines at Cheltenham and picked up my pay packet, even though I wasn’t playing much. But I am not like that and I wanted to challenge myself and get back out on the pitch.
“I had loan spells with Boreham Wood and Leyton Orient, but it is really difficult to build up a sense of momentum when you are only at a club for a short period of time.”
Holman left the Robins in the summer to join Aldershot on a permanent basis – a club with whom he had enjoyed a brief, but successful, spell during the 2012-13 season.
Ultimately, though, this proved to be another frustrating false dawn as his contract was terminated a fortnight ago with first-team opportunities limited.
“The season definitely hasn’t started in the manner I would have liked,” he admitted.
“Aldershot had a big turnaround in playing personal and they went for a different approach, which meant I didn’t find myself playing as regularly as I had wanted to.
“It is a really great club and the players and coaching staff were all really welcoming, and I wish them the best of success, but I just remember thinking to myself that it wasn’t the right fit for me.
“I had to travel a long way to get to matches and training and some days I was ending up spending up to five hours on the motorway, so I realised things weren’t quite right.”
Holman now believes Kettering is the perfect club to offer him the stability needed to kick start the next chapter of his career and help him to hit the goal trial once again.
The Poppies, based conveniently closer to Holman’s Northamptonshire home, have taken Step 3 by storm this season and sat proudly at the top of the table before yesterday.
Now Holman can’t wait to contribute to the club’s promotion push and has already done so after scoring the winner in Saturday’s match at Royston.
“When I left Aldershot I contacted a lot of clubs that were local and Marcus Law immediately reached out to me,” he added.
“Within a few minutes of speaking to him I could feel the passion he has for the club and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
“I managed to get on the scoresheet on my debut last week, which was a relief because it allowed me to prove myself to the lads and show I am not just here at the twilight of my career!
“The team having been playing really well and I know I am going to have to show what I can offer if I am going to break into the team. I can’t be complacent and assume I will play because I have been at a higher level before.
“The club are ambitious and everyone here is aiming for promotion, which we are more than capable of achieving. I am excited at the prospect of enjoying my football again and hopefully sticking the ball in the net a few times!”