NATHAN Holland’s history with Oxford United was key to his return on a season-long loan.

The West Ham United winger is back at the Kassam Stadium for 2021/22, 16 months after his previous spell was cut short by injury and Covid.

Holland was linked with the U’s back in January, despite having only just returned from the torn hamstring he suffered at Shrewsbury Town last March – the final game before the pandemic halted the season.

United have maintained their interest throughout and the 23-year-old revealed this helped make up his mind with other clubs circling.

Fact file: Statistics, key information and video of Nathan Holland

He said: “The gaffer (Karl Robinson) and I always said our journey together isn’t over.

“I did have interest from Championship clubs and quite a few League One clubs, but Oxford was always at the top of the list.

“Ever since I left they’ve always kept tabs and we’ve kept in touch.

“It was a bit difficult last season with me still having injuries, but it’s always been there.

“I had a great relationship with everyone.

“I feel very welcome here and feel like I can be myself.”

Holland first joined the U’s in January 2020, embarking on his maiden loan spell after a smattering of senior appearances for West Ham.

His first goal could hardly have been better-timed, with the BBC cameras capturing a last-minute volley that took United’s Emirates FA Cup fourth round replay against Newcastle United to extra time.

Holland said: “When I look back and watch that video it gives me goosebumps.

“It was amazing and to have the crowds back (this season) will be a real boost.”

The winger quickly found his rhythm and scored three times in 12 appearances across two months.

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He said: “As an attacking player, if you’re allowed to have that freedom to go out and do what you do best it does help.

“The gaffer always gave me that.

“He always speaks about how much he rates me and how much time I have.

“I feel confident and that allows me to do what I do best.”

Holland missed United’s win over Southend United on February 29 with a tight hamstring and he tore the muscle one week later at Shrewsbury.

The former England Under 19 international was out for nine months and admitted it was particularly difficult to watch the U’s compete in the Sky Bet League One play-offs without him.

“Missing the play-offs when I was last here was quite upsetting for me, because I wanted to be part of it,” he explained.

“It was tough, especially after having such a good season.

“I made my Premier League debut and started for the first team (at West Ham), so getting injured in the last game before Covid was tough.

“But that’s what happens as a footballer.

“I think I came back stronger, I feel more eager and hopefully I can put that bad luck behind me and kick on.”