Revellers and pain killers: The bizarre tale of how Holty got the City armband

Grant Holt was captain fantastic at Norwich City. But the story behind how he became leader of the pack at Carrow Road is a classic.

Grant Holt's autobiography

Grant Holt's autobiography - Credit: Archant

Holt earned cult hero status during a spell that saw him crowned player-of-the-season in three consecutive years, after leading the club from League One to the Premier League.

The 38-year-old's remarkable football journey is crammed into his autobiography, 'Grant Holt; A Real Football Life', in shops this coming weekend and now available to buy online.

This extract tells the tale of how he was awarded the captaincy by Paul Lambert.

On the Friday night before the Wycombe game, I woke up in bed to my mouth thudding. What the hell was that? It took me a while to realise it was coming from my tooth, and the pain was absolutely killing me.

I called reception to ask if they had any paracetamol, but apparently hotels aren't allowed to issue medication.

There was only one thing for it; putting some gear on and heading out at 2am on a Friday night.

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Norwich was still unfamiliar to me, so I headed up a back road off the Prince of Wales. I stumbled across an all night garage, grabbed the strongest painkillers they had, as well as some heat patches that were supposed to be for stiff backs.

I walked outside and with the distant throb of dance music and drunken shouting I got the paracetamol and rubbed it into my gum. As I stuck my finger in there, something popped. It had been an abscess, and my god the pain when it exploded. The excruciating pain. But also the relief. But then my mouth was filled with a disgusting taste, and - sorry readers - I had to spit the mucus out into a drain.

What a sight I must have been. Half two in the morning, rubbing stuff into my gum, moaning to myself, sptting into a drain.

A few people had clocked me when I headed back to the hotel. 'Haven't you got a game tomorrow?' 'Shouldn't you be in bed?' 'Are you pi**** the night before a match?'

I don't think anyone would have believed me when I told them I'd been on the hunt for painkillers for an abscess. To be fair, I wouldn't have believed me either!

The plan was to grab a little more sleep, get up at 12 to head to the ground. But my phone rang at 11am. Paul Lambert. The gaffer. Just what I needed.

'Alright gaffer?'

'You sound well.'

'I'm dying.'

'Get a grip, you've just got toothache.' The physio had obviously let him know.

'Gaffer, I'm in so much pain.'

'Don't be ridiculous, it's just a bit of toothache. I need to have a chat with you, come see me now.'

What did he want? I clambered out of bed, absolutely knackered, gum still sore.

Paul looked shocked at the sight of me, and his eyes fixed on the massive lump on my jaw.

'You look like the elephant man.'

I told him the full story, laying it on thick about the pain and lack of sleep. He asked what I was thinking about the game that day.

'Of course I want to play. I'll either have pain lying in my bed or pain playing out there and I'd much rather be out there.'

'Good answer. And just to let you know, you're starting and I'm taking the armband off Gary Doherty and giving it to you. I want you to be captain of this football club. I want you to lead by example and I think you'll thrive.'

Wow. I couldn't believe it. I was stood in the gaffer's office, a face like a smashed-up pumpkin and I was captain of Norwich City. It was genuinely humbling.

How did I celebrate being given the armband? By having my abscess lanced in the dressing room.

Grant Holt: A Real Football Life tells the story of the City legend's stunning rise up nine tiers of English football from non-league grafter to scoring at Anfield, the Emirates, the Etihad and Stamford Bridge.

In shops from Saturday and available to order NOW from

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