Five minutes into his Charlton Athletic debut, Matt Holland was struggling. Not because of a lack of fitness, or a lack of understanding with his new team-mates, but because he could barely tell his own side from the opposition.
Charlton, in their red shirts, were away at Plymouth Argyle,
whose home kit is green, as part of a pre-season tour in 2003.
Being colour blind, Holland could not distinguish between
the two, and only by focusing intently on the different designs of the respective
sides’ shorts could he tell the difference.
Every time I looked up, all I could see was one colour,”
Holland told The Athletic of that day in Plymouth. “I ran
over to the dugout. Mervyn Day was assistant manager, with (manager) Alan
Curbishley up in the stands. I said, ‘Merv, I have a big problem. I can’t
tell the difference between the two teams here’. I was having to look at the
shorts, which were different, but that isn’t great if you’re trying to do
“He must have thought, ‘What the bloody hell have we
signed?’ He told me I’d have to get on with it and that there was nothing they
could do. I told them after it was a bit of an issue: I always did things
quickly, one and two touches, and kept the ball moving. If I have an extra
touch and have to look up that takes away from my game so I had to say I’ve got
a problem here.
“We had green, orange, red bibs in training and he had to
make sure I had a colour I could see. He was conscious in training that I got a
colour I could tell my team-mates apart in, so I knew which team I was on.
“Those are the only times I’ve had major issues.”
Holland, 47, is now working in the media and adds: “I have
had problems watching games, on TV and when I’ve been commentating, where the
two teams are very similar. I have to really, really concentrate just to see
the difference between the two.”