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Grant Holt, seen here pleading his innocence after receiving his marching orders against Wolves, will be among the leading contenders for The Barry Butler Trophy once again this season. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
If you are planning a big party over the summer don’t invite Mark Clattenburg.
He is regarded as one the Premier League’s brightest young referees but, after seeing him at Carrow Road on Saturday, I’ve got him down as the sort of person who might appear in the living room in his pyjamas and turn the music down just as everyone is starting to enjoy themselves.
Grant Holt was officially inducted into Norwich City’s Hall of Fame last Tuesday. He celebrated in typical all-action style by scoring twice to put the canaries 2-1 up against Wolves.
I had visions of him carrying the match ball off having scored a hat-trick but, thanks to Mr Clattenburg, Holt achieved his first Premier League red card before his first top flight treble.
In the controversy stakes it wasn’t in the same league as Holt’s previous sending off at Reading 16 months ago, which was subsequently overturned, but it did put a dampener on what should have been another edition of the Pink ‘Un to cut out and stick into the Holt family’s already full-to-bursting scrapbook.
The way Holt latched on to Simeon Jackson’s through ball and kept his head while those around him were still grumbling about Wolves taking the lead underlined why he has been taken to the collective warm bosom of The Barclay over the past two and a half years.
With the clocks having gone forward and football people using phrases like ‘until its mathematically impossible’ the end of another season must be nigh.
Another sure sign is that voting has now opened for Norwich City’s Player of the Season award. During the romps through League One and The Championship Holt was such a stand-out performer that they may as well have scrapped the idea of a vote and just engraved his name on the Barry Butler trophy in mid-March. It will not be as clear cut in 2012.
That’s not to say that Holt hasn’t performed up to his usual standard, he most certainly has, but even our inspirational number 9 hasn’t started every game and Paul Lambert’s habit of regularly refreshing his starting line-up means that so many players have contributed equally to what has been a true team effort.
There’ll be a lot of pen chewing and teeth sucking before supporters eventually fill in their voting slips. Steve Morison, Bradley Johnson and Marc Tierney were early contenders while Anthony Pilkington, Kyle Naughton and John Ruddy started to really catch the eye around the season’s halfway point. In recent weeks I’ve been impressed by Zak Whitbread, Andrew Surman and David Fox and then you have those perennial crowd favourites that are Holt, Wes Hoolahan and Russell Martin.
Both Martin and Fox joked on Saturday that even they weren’t sure what formation, never mind starting line-up, Lambert was going to plump for from week to week. He surprised many on Saturday by giving Simon Lappin just his second Premier League start of the campaign. If the manager can surprise his own players and fans then what chance have the opposition got of second-guessing what they’ll be up against? That element of surprise and adaptability could just have played a big part in getting Norwich to 39 points well before the Easter eggs get heavily reduced in price in the supermarket.
No Premier League referee has the power to deny Holt this hat-trick, it’s all down to the fans as to whether he becomes the first player to lift the Barry Butler Trophy for a third successive year. If he does it really would be the marzipan on the cake at the end of another successful season. Sorry, I mean icing on the cake, I’m getting my battenbergs muddled up with my Clattenburgs.
• ALF THOROUGHLY DESERVES HIS PLACE IN CITY HALL OF FAME
I had the pleasure of hosting the Hall of Fame induction evening at Carrow Road last Tuesday.
Grant Holt and seven other great Norwich City names were officially written into the club’s history. It was a night full of surprises as I interviewed each of the new Hall of Famers in turn in front of an audience of about 300 diners.
Wes Hoolahan revealed that, just quietly under his breath, he likes to join in with the fans when they sing his name at Carrow Road.
Adam Drury told us how his 11 year stay with the club could have been much shorter if he had accepted one of the offers from other teams to have taken him away from the Canaries while he’s been here and Dean Ashton had stories of his ongoing battle to stop getting mistaken for John Ruddy when he is out in public.
Paul Lambert told the crowd what he really thinks of the questions I ask him after the matches (I can’t write it in a family newspaper like this one), Efan Ekoku admitted his goalscoring heroics for the Canaries feel every bit the almost 20 years ago that they now, rather frighteningly, are and there were audible gasps in the room when Michael Foulger, added to the Hall of Fame for his hard work and financial backing while on the Norwich City board, brought up the time he failed a trial to become a Canaries player in 1969.
The eighth member to be inducted was Alf Kirchen.
He died in 1999 but one of his daughters, Sue Hyde, picked up the award on his behalf. It clearly meant a lot to have her dad so warmly remembered by the club he played for in the 1930’s and later returned to as a director.
Alf played just 18 games for Norwich City, scoring a remarkable 10 goals, and went onto have success with the great Arsenal team of that era. His transfer fee was £6,000, huge money in those days.
It was a really enjoyable evening and lovely to pay tribute to a few of those who have made Norwich City the club that we all care so much about but no-one was so wrapped up in misty eyed nostalgia that they couldn’t muster a huge cheer when the news that Leeds had let in seven goals to Nottingham Forest that evening filtered into the room.
I bet Neil Warnock’s post-match team talk was even more colourful than some of the great stories we were being told at Carrow Road.