Chris Lakey: Norwich City fans saw Grant Holt at his very best
PUBLISHED: 12:27 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:27 24 August 2018
Focus Images 2011
Grant Holt’s decision to retire from competitive football wasn’t completely out of the blue.
The Norwich City legend had been seen over at Wroxham watching how his old pal Adam Drury and Wroxham were getting on - the word was Holt was going to play. It didn’t transpire, and although he was pictured playing a vets’ game this week, it was clear that retirement was imminent.
And then it came, via Twitter, a medium Holt has very much taken to in recent years.
“Morning everyone. As you all may have seen, I have been given the fantastic opportunity to work as a coach at Norwich City and also the fantastic opportunity to work with Langley School developing the talents of tomorrow.
“Due to committing to both roles I’ve decided the time has come to hang up my boots as a professional footballer.
“I would like to thank every fan and all my teams over my career for the amazing support and memories you all gave me.
“Would also like to thank every fan who slagged me off, shouted at me and booed when I touched the ball because without you it would not have been as fun. Thankyou to everyone behind the scenes that I met along the way. You know who you are.
Most importantly I would like to thank my family who have supported me through the highs and low in my career on and off the field.”
And with that he was gone. Another legend ridden off into the sunset. Gone. But, like Wes Hoolahan just a few months before him, most certainly not forgotten.
The praise, tributes, hero worship flowed in for a man who served 17 clubs – some more than once – but surely never felt the sort of impact he had at Carrow Road.
In the early days, Holt, having tried his hand at Workington and then Halifax, had headed to Australia and then Singapore trying to get a game and ensure he would never again have to supplement his football income by working as a tyre-fitter.
He returned to play for Barrow in 2001, working part-time in a factory while scoring goals on a Saturday and finally, in 2003, he got the full-time life he desired, at Sheffield Wednesday. It didn’t exactly work out and Holt was off again, to Rochdale. And there it did work, with 42 goals in 80-odd appearances, which earned him a £300,000 move to Nottingham Forest. Forest fans voted him player of the season, but while Holt scored goals, life wasn’t a bed of roses, with issues over his contract and then life out on the right wing.
A short loan at Blackpool was followed by a move to Shrewsbury in the summer of 2008, scoring 20 goals in his first season and again attracting interest.
And this is where the Grant Holt story really took off. Colchester apparently wanted to sign Holt but couldn’t afford him – but City could, and Bryan Gunn got the striker he hoped would fire his team straight back to the Championship.
Holt’s career had been up and down, but it was nothing compared to the first couple of weeks of the season at Carrow Road: a 7-1 home loss to Colchester, a hat-trick in a midweek League Cup win at Yeovil, Gunn sacked the following day and a week later Paul Lambert takes charge... having left Colchester.
Fortunately, Holt’s star shone brightly. Lambert made him skipper and Holt finished his first season with 24 goals.
Norwich had not just signed a goal scorer, they got a leader, a genuine fans’ favourite. A legend in the making.
He was named player of the season in 2010, 2011 and 2012, he helped City into the Premier League, he was on the verge of an England call-up only for Roy Hodgson to draw a line at non-Premier League players when it came to selecting the 2012 European Championship squad.
He was destroyer-in-chief in the East Anglian derby: in 2010-11 he scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 home win over Ipswich and in the return at Portman Road, pulled the strings and let the others take the glory in a stunning 5-1 win.
If ever confirmation of legendary status were needed, it arrived that season.
But all good things come to an end, and in July 2013, he joined Wigan and, after four years, his career took on a peripatetic nature again as he was loaned to Aston Villa, Huddersfield and Wolves before, in 2016 he rejoined Rochdale. A spell at Hibs followed – though the ending of direct flights back to Norwich, which had again become the family home, was more than untimely.
Holt re-emerged at King’s Lynn Town for a short spell last season, but a player-coaching job at Barrow lured him back to his roots. When that ended a few weeks ago, Holt was a free agent. And at the age of 37 and with the aforementioned job at Langley School as well as a part-time role at Norwich City, the decision was already being made.
Nineteen years’ service to the game – and City fans were lucky to have him at his very, very best.