Why Grant Holt is the best Norwich City player of the 21st century
PUBLISHED: 12:04 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:42 25 August 2018
Focus Images 2010
I don't often feel like belting out a Tina Turner song.
But, on hearing that ex-Norwich City striker Grant Holt is retiring from football, there’s only one response: “Simply the best...better than all the rest”.
“Best” is subjective, but my objective is to be persuasive. In fact, I don’t really care: Grant Holt is the best Norwich City player of the 21st century.
There, I’ve said it.
Sorry Darren Huckerby, Iwan Roberts, Wes Hoolahan and others who dazzled this side of the turn of the millennium, but Holty beats you all.
He wasn’t the most skilful, the fastest, the tidiest or the most graceful: others wear those crowns. But he was the best - better than all the rest.
I should explain my thinking, in an attempt to demonstrate that I do occasionally use my brain cells while writing this column.
When Holt was signed by Bryan Gunn in 2009, Norwich were in the third division for the first time in 40-plus years. The club was a total and utter mess - a situation symbolised by the wretched 7-1 home defeat to Colchester United in his first match.
The club was dying on its backside and needed something - someone - to revive it.
Off the field, that person was the new manager, Paul Lambert (Norwich’s greatest ever manager, I believe, though that’s another column entirely). He created a togetherness and momentum not seen for years.
But it needed an on-field leader to be the talisman: the human representation of the Lambert revolution.
Grant Holt was that man, and he remains the last true leader to wear the yellow-and-green kit.
Holt had personality on the pitch. He wound up away fans, stuck a ball under his shirt when they called him “fat”, dived into snow to celebrate scoring a goal, got in the faces and under the skin of opposition defenders, and laughed and joked with his own fans.
He was a Robert Fleck for the 21st century. It’s just such a shame that we haven’t had more of them down the years.
I will go so far as to say that Norwich City would not have got back to the Premier League without Grant Holt. Others played their part, but Holt was the gunpowder in the chamber: no Holt, no boom.
He helped me to love watching Norwich again, largely because it was so obvious that he loved playing.
He had been a tyre fitter and scratched out a living in the lower leagues, so he knew what it was worth to be given a chance - and lots of money.
Holt engaged (and still engages) with fans on Twitter, showing himself to be down-to-earth.
But there are some current examples of players who are good on Twitter and excellent at making the fans love them - but ultimately are pretty useless. All fur and no knickers, as my Gran so aptly put it.
Holt definitely had the knickers to go with the fur. For he was a superb player. He scored countless goals, was player of the season three times in a row, set up goals, roughed up opponents and sometimes almost physically dragged his teammates to the next level.
His goal at Liverpool, when he thumped in a header in front of the Kop, leaving three Reds players in a heap on the turf, is in my all-time City top 10.
Then there was his hat-trick at home to Ipswich - the pantomime villain owning the stage and laughing in the face of the Ipswich fans.
When away supporters mocked him, he scored and milked it. When opponents clattered him, he clattered them harder.
He was a colossus. Back-to-back promotions, top scorer, player of the season, man of the people, scourge of the opposition (and the referees), Lambert’s top dog of war.
Grant Holt, simply the best, I salute you.
■ For more Grant Holt tributes, reports and photos, see today’s Pink Un.