Norwich City fans left shaking by shirty super-hero Grant Holt
14:13 15 February 2012
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If Grant Holt has to miss Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Leicester with a case of double pneumonia or hypothermia we’ll all know why.
On a day when Premier League footballers made the news for not shaking hands the Norwich City skipper was prepared to shake his whole upper torso in celebration of his second goal against Swansea.
Canaries fans have long held Grant Holt up as a kind of modern day super hero and the sight of him peeling off his shirt to pose in front of the away supporters on a day when the temperature gauge in our car hit -13C on the long drive home makes it hard to believe that he is just your mild mannered centre forward.
You could understand Holt’s delight. That goal meant that Norwich had become the first away team to score three times at Swansea’s ground this season and if you are going to strip half naked anywhere on a cold day then a place called The Liberty Stadium seems as appropriate as anywhere.
He was of course booked for his troubles. I believe the automatic yellow card dished out to players who celebrate goals by taking their shirt off is officially something to do with the likelihood of winding up the opposition fans, but if Grant Holt did make a bit of Swansea blood boil he was probably doing them a good service on such a freezing day.
I like to think the talking-to from the ref when that happens is along the lines of, “What do you think you’re doing going out dressed like that? Put some clothes on” .
Caught up in the moment, I briefly considered joining Holt in baring my chest to the elements to salute his well-taken strike.
However, by the time I’d unzipped my two coats, unbuttoned my big woolly jumper, then gained enough feeling back in my fingers to undo the tiny buttons on the shirt I was wearing and wriggled out of my thermal T-shirt, we would probably have been into stoppage time.
There has been a big snowball effect noticeable in Norfolk recently, and I’m not talking about the weather conditions of the past week. Paul Lambert’s third season as Norwich City manager seems to be following the pattern of the previous two.
Momentum built gradually in League One as Norwich chased down, eventually caught and pulled away from Leeds to win the title.
Then last season it was about this time that what had been an outside chance of the play-offs was beginning to feel like a real shot at automatic promotion.
In 2010, Norwich lost only five of the 23 league games which marked the second half of the season and one of those was on the final day of the campaign to Carlisle when the League One trophy was already sitting proudly in the Carrow Road trophy cabinet.
Last season’s record was even more impressive, with defeats at Burnley and Swansea the only two in the final 23 Championship games.
Things are much more difficult in the Premier League, but that recent history suggests we really shouldn’t be surprised that the post-Christmas slump that some were forecasting and telling us that newly-promoted team always have hasn’t materialised.
At the halfway point of this season Norwich had a seven-point cushion from the bottom three.
Six games later that buffer has doubled, and while there are some hugely difficult games to come it is worth just pausing during this fortnight break from Premier League action to reflect on the fact that Norwich City are, incredibly, 14 points away from the bottom three and only eight points away from the top four. No wonder Paul Lambert afforded himself a wry smile in his post-match interview on Saturday and used the word ‘bizarre’ to describe the Canaries’ proximity to some of the major forces in English football.
It’s almost enough to make you want to remove your shirt on the coldest day of the year. Holt’s bare-faced and bare-chested cheek was put into further context on Saturday evening when it was cold enough for the Six Nations rugby international between France and Ireland to be postponed.
As a self-confessed wimp I quite enjoyed the irony of a rugby match being cancelled for safety reasons. Perish the thought of someone hurting themselves while playing rugby.
• FORBES SHOWS ANOTHER SWIFT TURN OF FOOT AT SWANSEA
The BBC Radio Norfolk commentary team was briefly the centre of attention at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
Ok, I’m probably giving myself a bit too much credit there. One member of our team was – and it certainly wasn’t me.
The former Norwich winger Adrian Forbes was good enough to make one of the season’s longest journeys with us.
They were pleased to see him at the Liberty Stadium because he holds a unique place in Swansea history as the scorer of the last goal at their old ground, The Vetch Field.
A picture of the strike, scored past none other than England goalkeeper Joe Hart when he was just a whipper snapper at Shrewsbury, was in the official programme and before the game Adrian was introduced to the crowd. All four corners of the ground gave one of the nicest men in football the warmest ovation imaginable.
There wasn’t much time to milk the applause as his role as BBC Radio Norfolk’s summariser quickly brought him back down to earth. Or, to be more accurate, up several flights of stairs to the press box at the back of the stand.
Showing an impressive turn of pace to underline why he is now a key member of Lowestoft Town’s successful squad, Forbes made it from pitchside as the players were coming out to be sitting in the seat next to me in time for kick-off and he wasn’t even out of breath. I would have been wheezing away until half-time at least.
When you cross from the professional game into the local Radio commentary box I’m afraid you leave the glamour behind. Any little boost or burst of pride resulting from being clapped by 20,000-odd fans must have evaporated three hours later when he undertook five-and-a-bit hours of my driving from Swansea back to Norfolk.
Perhaps he managed to maintain some of the fuzzy feeling you get from a good away win and a standing ovation to keep him going during our over-priced service station coffee at 10pm on a sub zero Saturday.