Hollis looking to move forward with Notts

Haydn Hollis playing for Notts County.
Haydn Hollis playing for Notts County.

Though it might be the dreams of many, there is probably only one lad who has grown up in Selston and gone on to play football against Juventus.

But that opportunity came Haydn Hollis’ way via the unlikely route of playing for Notts County.

He was part of the squad that travelled to Turin to play in the gala game that celebrated the official opening of the Italian giants’ new stadium in 2011 - a game in which County held Juventus to a 1-1 draw - and which he unsurprisingly mentions as the highlight of his fledgling professional football career.

“It was one of those chances of a lifetime,” Hollis (21) said.

“Not just playing there, but the way we were treated by Juventus for the whole trip. It was unbelievable.”

Like many young boys in Mansfield and Ashfield, Hollis began playing football for his local teams - Selston and Bagthorpe - and played in the Chad youth league on a Saturday morning.

But so happy was he just enjoying the game that he almost lost the opportunity to sign for a professional club.

“I went on trial with many clubs including Mansfield and Forest.

“They wanted me to sign and I didn’t want to because I was happy playing with my friends,” he said. “I loved it.”

At 16 Haydn went back to Forest but they were no longer interested. Luckily for him, he received a call from Notts County asking him to go down and try out with them.

They took him on for a two-year scholarship which led to him signing professionally.

“I am glad it happened to be fair,” he said.

Hollis’ scholarship at Notts County sounds pretty much like the traditional apprenticeship that players always used to have.

“The two years were really hard,” he said. “Cleaning boots, scrubbing floors, but obviously it was well worth it to get where I am now.”

From Haydn’s year only four of his teammates were offered professional deals but now he is the only survivor at Meadow Lane. One of those who has found a club elsewhere is Mansfield Town goalkeeper Liam Mitchell.

“There were so many lads that were good enough to make the grade but you need that bit of luck - it’s a case of ‘if your face fits’,” he said.

Hollis made his league debut in January 2012 marking striker Jordan Rhodes as Notts took on Huddersfield Town and has had loan spells at conference clubs Barrow and Darlington.

He is now in his third season as a professional and agreed a long-term deal during the summer following a run of first team appearances under recently-departed manager Chris Kiwomya.

Since then a knee injury has kept him sidelined but he is on the road to recovery and was on the bench for County’s game against Wolves at the weekend.

“I have been running on it for two weeks, trained last week and it feels brilliant,” Haydn said.

“A full week of training this week and hopefully I will be back to full fitness.”

Since Hollis last played for the first team, Notts have again had a change of manager.

Former player Shaun Derry has returned to the club with Greg Abbott as his assistant.

Notts are rock bottom of League One and on a terrible run of results but Haydn believes they have a squad capable of performing much better.

He said: “We have to move on and hopefully we can go forward.

“The managers always get the blame but the players have to look at themselves in the mirror. We have got ourselves in this mess so we have to get ourselves out of it.”