Alan Shearer was looking a little glum on Saturday night, and no wonder.
Having to sit in the spanking new Match of the Day studio while Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen picked over the bones of Newcastle United’s 4-2 defeat at Carrow Road must have been a little uncomfortable, but while the former England centre-forward was called upon only for a brief comment – suggesting that manager Alan Pardew must strengthen his squad in January – he must have been quietly impressed with the man in the yellow No 9 shirt.
Grant Holt has only just arrived on the Premier League scene at the age of 30, while Shearer spent his entire career in the top flight with Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle, but there are certain similarities in style and over the past 2� years, Holt has been accorded the same kind of hero status with Norwich City that Shearer commanded at St James’ Park, albeit at a higher profile club and over a much longer period.
Shearer scored 206 goals in 403 first team games for the Magpies at a rate of a goal every 1.96 games, while Holt’s double against Newcastle took him to 59 goals in 106 appearances in all competitions for the Canaries at a rate of one every 1.79 matches.
It gives him currently the fastest strike rate of any City player to score 50 goals or more for the club, nudging ahead of postwar favourites Roy Hollis (1.81) and Ralph Hunt (1.83), and even the prolific Ron Davies (1.91), still regarded by many fans as the finest centre-forward they have seen in the yellow and green.
Holt’s first goal last Saturday was his 50th in the league for the Canaries in only his 98th league outing, a notable feat in itself, while adding the cup-tie goals into the mix puts him joint 14th with Hollis in the club’s all-time goalscorers’ table, and only seven goals short of a place in the top 10, where Davies, Jimmy Hill and Ted MacDougall share ninth place with 66.
Statistics can be misleading but a look at City’s top 20 postwar scorers gives some measure of Holt’s achievement since arriving from Shrewsbury in the summer of 2009.
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Hollis and Hunt, two of the other three City centre-forwards averaging better than a goal every two games, operated in Division Three South for Norwich, while Davies’ tenure at Carrow Road was exclusively in Division Two – though of course he went on to prove himself at the highest level, topping the scoring charts in Division One with Southampton.
MacDougall played roughly half his games for City in the former Division One, though his goal tally included 14 penalties, whereas Holt has scored just five spot-kicks.
Terry Allcock would certainly have enjoyed a faster strike rate than a goal every three games had he not played in a much deeper role in later seasons in his career, while Scotland international Robert Fleck’s average was actually much better in his top-flight days than when he returned to Norwich to play in what became Football League Division One after the creation of the Premier League.
Quite a few of City’s half-centurions were not strikers at all, which makes the efforts of wingers like club record goalscorer Johnny Gavin and Ken Foggo and midfielders such as World Cup winner Martin Peters and Tommy Bryceland more impressive than the bare figures suggest.
Can Holt maintain his current rate of progress? Much depends on how many minutes manager Paul Lambert is prepared to give him, but six goals in 14 Premier League outings, only six of which have been starts, is a pretty good way to start.
• Postwar City players with 50 or more goals in all competitions
(games, goals, games per goal)
Grant Holt 106, 59, 1.79
Roy Hollis 107, 59, 1.81
Ralph Hunt 132, 72, 1.83
Ron Davies 126, 66, 1.91
Ted MacDougall 138, 66, 2.09
Hugh Curran 124, 53, 2.33
Johnny Gavin 338, 132, 2.56
Kevin Drinkell 150, 57, 2.63
John Deehan 199, 70. 2.84
Leslie Eyre 201, 69, 2.91
Jimmy Hill 195, 66, 2.95
Terry Allcock 389, 127, 3.06
Iwan Roberts 306, 96, 3.18
Ken Foggo 201, 57, 3.52
Robert Fleck 299, 84, 3.55
Noel Kinsey 243, 65, 3.73
Martin Peters 232, 50, 4.64
Bobby Brennan 250, 52, 4.80
Tommy Bryceland 284, 55, 5.16
Ron Ashman 662, 56, 11.82