From Holt to Roberts - Hugill has big shoes to fill at City
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 August 2020
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It’s the time of year where the numbers on the back of players’ shirts become of interest to numerous supporters.
Some opt to draw an interest so they can decide who to get printed on the back of their replica shirt and others let pure intrigue and mystery take over.
Some might suggest that a number is representative of the position or the hierarchy of a certain player.
One thing is for sure, there is an aesthetic surrounding them.
Number 11 should be allocated to a pacey winger rather than a first-choice goalkeeper, for example. Number 13 is usually awarded to the back-up shot-stopper. And so on.
As for number nine, it seems to be the most sought after number of them all - it comes down to who will score the goals and cast themselves in the role of the hero.
For the upcoming season, that falls to Norwich City newboy Jordan Hugill - who becomes the first Canaries number nine in two seasons after the departure of Nelson Oliveria.
As a strapping centre forward willing to engage in a physical battle with a central defender, Hugill fits the mould as a more conventional number nine.
Whilst having the number emblazoned on your back in the yellow and green of City doesn’t possess the same prestige as other clubs, there is still an expectation that Hugill will have to live up to.
After all, strikers are expected to produce a solid return, especially those donning the number nine shirt.
That is why Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s decision to inherit the number from Grant Holt - combined with a hefty transfer fee - created excitement amongst City supporters.
Since Everton’s Dixie Dean become the first to wear the number on his back in the 1933 FA Cup final, there has been an aura attached to the number.
Hugill is following in the footsteps of some Canaries greats.
The most recent is Holt, whom supporters have been quick to draw comparisons with Hugill.
The talismanic Cumbrian out-muscled, out-fought and scored his way into the Canaries history books.
At 28, he was considered to be in the peak of his career when he joined City at their lowest ebb in recent history in 2009.
In just three seasons, Holt swapped Stockport County for Anfield and was rumoured to be in contention for Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 side after netting 15 goals in the top flight.
Since Holt, nobody has grasped that shirt with the same emphasis. Van Wolfswinkel, Kyle Lafferty, Dieumerci Mbokani and Oliveria were all hopeful they could make it their own.
Another former City number nine and legend Iwan Roberts admitted he sees shades of himself in Hugill’s game.
Roberts is a household name amongst City supporters - yet another striker who enjoyed a physical battle with defenders - even at the expense of his own front teeth.
Chris Sutton is another successful number nine who fits that mould.
Sutton was a highly-talented young footballer during his spell at Carrow Road, even if a portion of supporters still feel aggrieved about the manner in which he departed the club.
Both Roberts and Sutton, similarly to Holt, maximised their ability by working tirelessly for the shirt – without being just “big men”.
In Sutton’s case, he would go onto win the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers whilst Holt and Roberts wound down their careers following their respective City exits.
Justin Fashanu was also a prominent member of the number nine club, his City pedigree doesn’t require any explanation.
And who could forget Mark Robins; unlike Sutton, Roberts and Holt, the current Coventry City boss relied on his innate goalscoring ability during his successful spell in Norfolk.
Robert Fleck is another bona fide City legend who enjoyed two spells at the club and is remembered fondly.
The Scot possessed a feisty streak that seemed to underpin everything he did.
There are so many that could, and probably should, be mentioned in any discussion surrounding City’s best number nine – Terry Allcock in the late 50s and the 60s.
Yet the theme that seems to underscore all of the Canaries most productive and most favourable number nines is work ethic.
Hugill is a striker with a reputation for his graft. His modest beginnings have crafted a humbleness that sees the 28-year-old fight for everything he owns.
He may not finish every chance or offer the technical ability of some of colleagues - but Hugill will be hoping to be another great number nine for City.